This article aims to understand the effects of rationalized health programs (the basic components of which are efficiency, calculability, predictability and control) on local practices. We discuss how a successful U.S. intervention in preventive youth health care (the Nurse Family Partnership) has been translated and adapted within a Dutch setting. The Dutch version of the program is called 'PreCare'. The empirical analysis highlights the effects of rationalized health programs on local practices, in terms of the amount of work required, how local practices are disciplined, how these programs (re)draw boundaries, the 'travel expenditures' involved (and developed 'coping strategies'), and how local practices (try to) reshape the program. Our empirical analysis builds on a combination of qualitative methods. We conducted 16 semi-structured interviews with 19 people involved in the PreCare program. The majority of the interviews were conducted between July and November 2008. We also conducted an analysis of relevant documents related to the PreCare intervention and protocol. Furthermore, we observed at several meetings, including case conferences and management intervision meetings.The article makes a theoretical and practical contribution to the field. Theoretically, we show how the rationalization process is linked to a broader development of quantification and how both developments are based on a particularly modern ontology and epistemology in which what is considered 'real' and 'knowledgeable' becomes closely tied to what is measurable. The article offers a different conceptualization of rationalized health programs, one that acknowledges the need to standardize some elements, but also recognizes the need to be open and flexible toward local practices. We specifically focus on the tools that are able to deal with both the need to standardize . and the need to be open toward local practices. We suggest that '(re)writing devices' are a fruitful category of tools for this purpose.

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Social Science & Medicine
Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management (ESHPM)

Wehrens, R.L.E, & Bal, R.A. (2012). Health programs struggling with complexity: A case study of the Dutch 'PreCare' project. Social Science & Medicine, 75(2), 274–282. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.02.052