Rachel Best is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan. In her research, she analyzes how societies define problems and marshal public resources to address them. Across a wide range of issues—diseases, homelessness, and employment discrimination—she shows how advocacy and culture create inequalities in policy.
Her current research documents a dramatic change in American politics: the emergence of diseases as interest groups. In the past 20 years, people with serious diseases have raised their voices in Congress to an unprecedented degree, organizing to demand public funding for medical research into their conditions. In the first longitudinal study of the field of disease social movements, she tracks the causes and effects of their expansion and politicization.