We are bidding Bruce Link a fond farewell, he is joining the faculty of the University of California Riverside. His leadership of the Mailman School of Public Health’s Psychiatric Epidemiology Training Program nurtured the careers of generations of young epidemiologists and classes on Measurement Theory and Psychiatric Epidemiology provided key elements in the tool kits of countless Masters and Doctoral students across a broad range of research and practice disciplines. But more importantly from a Social Epidemiology perspective his and Jo Phelan’s work on Fundamental Cause Theory provided a rigorous theoretical lens through which the generation and perpetuation of health disparities could be understood. They argued that because poorer health outcomes repeatedly aligned with socio-economic disadvantage, despite changes in the prevalence of risk factors, the elimination of risk factors and the rise of new risk factors for disease, socio-economic status was a fundamental cause of health. The corollary of their insight was that the development and application of new health interventions or knowledge would inevitably lead to new health disparities – those who were more socio-economically advantaged would be able to more rapidly avail themselves of these advances. Furthermore, Bruce’s seminal work on stigma added a further theoretical and empirical perspective concerning this harmful societal dynamic that augmented his Fundamental Causes work. Bruce’s Modified Labeling Theory (1989) provides a theoretical basis for understanding the key aspects by which stigma leads to harmful effects upon individuals, and remains one of the seminal papers in the stigma field.
Bruce’s legacy at the Mailman School is the faculty and researchers who, inspired by his work, continue to pursue research on how social conditions impact health and to advocate for the importance of understanding and addressing social disparities as a driver of population health.
We will miss you Bruce.
Several of Bruce’s key writings on Fundamental Cause Theory are linked out below.
- Social conditions as fundamental causes of health inequalities: theory, evidence, and policy implications.
Bruce’s original work on Modified Labeling Theory can be accessed after registering at JSTOR