...the latest findings, best methods and newest ideas in the scientific study of religion.
ARDA Guiding Papers Series

Under the Umbrella of Religion and Health: What Makes Religion and Public Health Research Different from Religion and Medicine Research?

Ellen L. Idler, Carol Hogue and Karen Scheib


The body of research coming under the overarching umbrella of religion and health research has grown increasingly large and complex. It may be useful to draw a distinction between research that is directed at public health concerns and that which relates more directly to medicine. In this paper we lay out a series of examples and then attempt to draw out the features they illustrate. The paper has five parts: 1) a sketch of some historical and contemporary examples of religionís intersection with public health practice; 2) a review of population-based research on religion as a social determinant of health; 3) a brief look at trends in religion and medicine research today; 4) a frank, if also brief, appraisal of the negative influence of religion on medicine and public health; and 5) a description of some remarkable institutions with religious origins or inspiration that seem to have sprung up spontaneously, without obvious forebears, into one or another public health breach. With this story of research and practice in religion and public health, we hope to articulate some useful distinctions within the increasingly large field of work under the religion and health umbrella.

[Download complete paper in PDF format]


Please use the following when citing this paper:

Idler, Ellen L., Carol Hogue and Karen Scheib. 2010. Under the Umbrella of Religion and Health: What Makes Religion and Public Health Research Different from Religion and Medicine Research? (ARDA Guiding Paper Series). State College, PA: The Association of Religion Data Archives at The Pennsylvania State University, from http://www.thearda.com/rrh/papers/guidingpapers.asp.

Ellen L. Idler, Department of Sociology, Emory University

Carol Hogue, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University

Karen Scheib, Candler School of Theology, Emory University