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Contagious CommunitiesMedicine, Migration, and the NHS in Post War Britain$
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Roberta Bivins

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198725282

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198725282.001.0001

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Genetically Ethnic? Genes, ‘Race’, and Health in Thatcher’s Britain

Genetically Ethnic? Genes, ‘Race’, and Health in Thatcher’s Britain

(p.304) 6 Genetically Ethnic? Genes, ‘Race’, and Health in Thatcher’s Britain
Contagious Communities

Roberta Bivins

Oxford University Press

Molecular genetics was an area in which elite British scientists and research institutions sought to compete on a global scale. Sickle cell anaemia and thalassaemia, genetic conditions strongly linked to specific racialized ethnic communities, offered British researchers an opportunity to leapfrog their US counterparts: here, the UK’s newly diverse population and less toxic racial politics represented a huge advantage. So too was the availability of the NHS as a source of universal healthcare, and the discretionary power held by research elites within it to mediate access to both specialist and general services in the name of research. Yet service provision to affected communities lagged behind research funding, emerging only in response to community activism. While sickle cell anaemia and thalassaemia were not significant sources of morbidity or mortality, their symbolism and scientific potential attracted clinical and political attention denied to other more mundane (and more prevalent) chronic conditions.

Keywords:   molecular genetics, sickle cell anaemia, thalassaemia, Department of Health and Social Services, Medical Research Council, ethnicity, race concepts, inequality, activism

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