Reclaiming ‘Chronic Illness’

An exploration of the meaning of the term ‘chronic illness’ and the relationship between people with chronic illness and the disability movement.

Author: Catherine Hale

This discussion paper presents the ideas and assumptions behind the Chronic Illness Inclusion Project (CIIP), part of the DRILL programme of disability research.

A key aim of the CIIP is to translate our experience of chronic illness into the social model of disability, beginning with the distinction between impairment and disability. In this paper, I argue that, ‘chronic illness’ is a self-ascribed identity which implies both a distinctive form of impairment (in our case, bodily malfunction) and a shared experience of disability or disablism (social oppression).

Chapter 2 of this paper outlines the concept of limited energy and systemic impairment and proposes the term ‘stamina impairment’ to capture the lived experience of chronic illness.

Chapter 3 suggests that the oppression faced by people who identify as having chronic illness is based on the invisibility of impairment and the unequal relationship between lived experience of our bodies and scientific medical knowledge on illness and disease.

Chapter 4 suggests that chronic illness is a hidden impairment group on the margins of the UK Disabled People’s Movement (DPM) and unaccounted for in social and public policy. It explores the historical and ideological reasons for this marginalisation and proposes that exploring a social model of chronic illness through emancipatory research will help to forge a closer and mutually-beneficial alliance between the DPM and the online chronic illness communities, as well as build a platform for social, political and cultural change based, not on medical diagnostic labels, but on shared experiences, needs and aspirations.

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The publisher is the Centre for Welfare Reform.

Reclaiming ‘Chronic Illness’ © Catherine Hale 2018.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.


Paper | 26.06.18

Chronic Illness Inclusion, disability, health & healthcare, social care, England, Paper

Catherine Hale


Founder of Chronic Illness Inclusion Project

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