Translation in the making: how older people engaged in a randomised controlled trial on lifestyle changes apply medical knowledge in their everyday lives

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A recurring discussion in recent health studies relates to knowledge translation (KT), which deals with the questions of how to ensure and measure the uptake of knowledge from one medical situation to another and of how to move the right form of knowledge from one situation to another. Recently, however, this way of understanding KT has received criticism for presenting too basic an understanding of knowledge and not fully grasping the potential of the term translation. Based on qualitative material from a randomised controlled trial (RCT) and a follow-up study, this article takes the current discussion of KT one step further, focussing on how KT happens among healthy citizens participating in a lifestyle intervention. The overall argument is that even current critical understandings of KT often ignore the fact that the translation of medical knowledge does not stop at the clinical encounter but extends into the everyday health practices of the population. A more nuanced understanding of how and in which forms medical knowledge is adopted by people in their everyday health practices will give new insights into the complex mechanisms of KT and the encounter between medical knowledge and practice and everyday life. Hence, this article discuss how knowledge from a clinical trial—focussing on muscular training and increased protein intake—is translated into meaningful health practices. The article concludes the following points: First, constant, and often precarious, work is required to maintain the content of ‘medical knowledge’ in a complex social order. Second, focussing on translation work in everyday life emphasises that KT is an open-ended process, wherein the medical object of knowledge is contested and renegotiated and needs alliances with other objects of knowledge in order to remain relevant. Last, from an everyday life perspective, medical knowledge is just one rationale making up the fabric of people’s health practices; other rationales, such as time, feasibility, logistics and social relations, are just as relevant in determining how and why people pursue healthy living or comply with a medical regimen. CALM trial registration NCT02034760. Registered on 10 January 2014; NCT02115698. Registered on 14 April 2014; Danish regional committee of the Capital Region H-4-2013-070. Registered on 4 July 2013; Danish Data Protection Agency 2012-58-0004–BBH-2015-001 I-Suite 03432. Registered on 9 January 2015.

Original languageEnglish
Article number154
JournalHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study is funded by the University of Copenhagen Excellence Programme for Interdisciplinary Research 2016 (CALM project; and hosted by Copenhagen Centre for Health Research in the Humanities, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Department of Food Science at University of Copenhagen, and Institute of Sports Medicine at Bispebjerg Hospital. The study was carried out with support of prof. Lars Holm, prof. Dennis Sandris Nielsen and researchers at the CALM project. Special thanks are also extended to all the participants in the study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

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