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HEALTH AND MEDICINE:Health, Health Care, and Disability:By: Katie and Lindsay

Health and health care will affect all humans directly at some point in their
lives.Health is defined as a state of complete physical, mental, and social
well-being (Kendall: 417). Health care is defined as any activity intended to
improve health (Kendall: 417). Disability unlike health and healthcare may
not affect everyone directly but will impact their life in some
way. Disability is defined as a reduced ability to perform tasks one would
normally do at a given stage of life and that may result in stigmatization or
discrimination against the person with disabilities (Kendall: 437).
Health:Health is a part of all aspects of human life. Health begins at birth and ends
at death. This is encompassed in our life expectancy.
Our health is comprised of physical health, mental health, and social health.
These three sub areas have many factors that make them up. Physical
health is made up of: physical fitness, diet, and any disease(s) we may
have. Mental Health is made up of: our emotional stability, psychological
health, and any diseases that may alter our mental state. Social health
involves our ability to communicate with others and be a fully functioning
member of society.
Health is a sociological topic because it involves every culture, government,
and religion. Health is a part of everyones life. A persons health can make
them a target for discrimination. For example, a person with AIDS might not
receive the same respect and treatment as a person without the disease.
Government plays a large role in health because it determines the health
care in its country.
Health Care:When most people think of health care medicine comes to their mind.

Medicine is defined as an institutionalized system for the scientific diagnosis,

treatment, and prevention of illness (Kendall: 417).
Abraham Flexner conducted a study in this time to look at how to make
medicine more wide spread and profitable. He met with the leading faculty
at Johns Hopkins and created a plan on how to make medical school
education more effective (Kendall 424). This study was known as the Flexner
report and it included five criteria that would help make medicine better.
These five criteria were: Abstract, specialized knowledge, autonomy, selfregulation, authority, and altruism. These five criteria aimed at giving
doctors a theoretical education, teaching them to rely on their own
judgment, establishing a code of ethics, making them the final word in
medicine, and treating patients not for their own self-interest but because it
is the right thing to do (Kendall: 424-425).
Health care and medicine have made great strides in the 21st century. We
now have hospitals that treat any patient who comes into the emergency
room regardless of their ability to pay for that care. This care is only
provided in certain cases though.Patients who come in simply for a sprained
ankle can be turned away. This situation is because of our nations insurance
Disability:A disability is any condition that limits a persons ability to function
abnormally. Disabilities affect everyone all over the world in some way. The
citizens that are most affected are often the people who cannot afford the
healthcare to treat their disability. Having a disability puts the person at
higher risk of discrimination, poverty, and lowered life expectancy.
Health and Society:Health is shaped by several factors in a society: its cultural patterns,
such as standards of health and ideas of moral goodness, its technological
development, and level of inequality
Canada has universal medical coverage, where costs are covered by the
state, but the rich have better physical and mental health than the poor. A
cultural emphasis on masculinity may lead to illness in Canada. See the
Applying Sociology Box (p. 543).

Health in History:
Health as a social issue is demonstrated by the significant increase in
well-being over the course of history. The simple technology of hunting and
gathering societies made it difficult to maintain a healthful environment. As
many as one-half of the people in such societies died by age twenty, and few
lived passed the age of forty.
The agricultural revolution increased surpluses, but also inequality, so
only the elite enjoyed better health. Urbanization during mediaeval times
created horrible health problems.
Health in Low-Income Countries:Abject poverty leads to poor nutrition and is linked to poor sanitation,
contaminated drinking water, and infectious diseases. Combined with a lack
of trained medical personnel, health is poor and life expectancy low for most
residents of low-income countries. In some countries, half the children never
reach adulthood. When medical technologies are introduced to these
countries and infectious diseases are reduced, the population often soars,
bringing on yet more poverty.
Health in High-Income Countries:Early industrialization was characterized by crowded, filthy cities where
disease was rampant. By the late 1800s, medical advances reduced the
impact of infectious diseases and sewer systems were separated from
drinking water. In the longer term industrialization has delayed death
considerably; although the diseases of affluence, cancer and heart disease,
are very much with us.
Who Is Healthy? Age, Gender, Class,
Social epidemiology is the study of how health and disease are
distributed throughout a society's population. The links among health and
physical and social environments are examined.
Age and Gender:Death is rare among young Canadians, but we have seen an increase in
accidental deaths and death from AIDS. Many children today have poor diets
and exercise patterns that will likely make them heart patients in the future.
An increasing portion of adults see their health as good.

Social Class :The richest children in Canada enjoy very good health but the poorest,
especially Aboriginal children, are as vulnerable as the children in lowincome countries. it shows that death rates and infant mortality rates are
much higher for Aboriginal peoples than other Canadians. As well, affluent
Canadians and immigrants enjoy better health than other Canadians.
Cigarette Smoking:Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of illness and death
in Canada and is increasingly seen as deviant behaviour.
Smoking is estimated to be responsible for one-quarter of the deaths of
men and women between 35 and 84 years of age. Lung cancer rates for
women are almost as high as the rates for breast cancer and pregnant
women who smoke put their fetus at risk. Tobacco companies have conceded
that smoking is harmful to health but they continue to market tobacco
products in other countries. Sponsorship of sporting events by tobacco
companies has ended in Canada and smoke-free environments are
increasingly supported by legislation in some provinces.
Eating Disorders:These disorders involve intense forms of weight control in order to
become very thin. Ninety-five percent are women and most are White and
middle class. The cultural ideal of thinness for women is espoused by
affluent families and the mass media, who provide unrealistic standards of

THE MEDICAL ESTABLISHMENT:Medicine is a social institution for combating disease and improving
health. For most of human history, the individual and family were
responsible for health care. In pre-industrial societies, traditional healers,
from herbalists to acupuncturists, provided for the health needs of their
society's members. Medicine emerges within technologically complex
societies as people fill specialized roles as healers.
The Rise of Scientific Medicine:-

Scientific medicine dominates health care in Canada, meaning the

logic of science is applied to research and treatment of disease and injury.
In colonial Canada, medicine was the domain of herbalists, druggists,
midwives, and ministers. These medical people knew little by today's
standards and the surgeons of the time probably killed as many as they
Gradually specialists came to know more about anatomy, physiology, and
biochemistry, and medicine came under self-regulating medical societies.
Doctors established the General Council of Medical Education and
Registration in Upper Canada in 1865 and the Canadian Medical Association
in 1867. By these activities they won control of the certification process and
relegated other health practitioners, such as naturopaths to fringe roles.
Medicine became a male, higher social level background preserve. Even
in 1992, more than 80% of physicians were men and 97% of nurses were
Holistic Medicine:Holistic medicine is an approach to health care that emphasizes
prevention of illness and takes account of the whole person within a physical
and social environment. The following are major concerns of the holistic
approach: patients are people, individual responsibility for health is stressed
instead of dependency on medicine, a personal treatment environment is
sought, and the goal of holistic medicine is optimum health for all by
concentrating on health rather than disease.
Medicine in Socialist Nations:In societies like the People's Republic of China and the former Soviet
Union, government directly controls medical care. Medical costs are paid for
by public funds, and medical care is distributed equally among all.
The People's Republic of China is still a relatively poor agrarian society
that is just beginning to industrialize. With over 1 billion people, reaching
everyone within one system is difficult. Barefoot doctors, equivalent to
paramedics in America, bring modern methods to millions of rural residents
in China, but traditional healing arts remain strong.
The former Soviet Union is struggling to formulate a new medical care
system within the switch from a state-dominated economy to a market
system. Currently people receive their care at a local government health

facility. Physicians, mainly women, are poorly paid and the health care
system is in crisis, providing standardized, impersonal care.
Medicine in Capitalist Nations:In capitalist societies citizens provide for health care with their own
resources with varying levels of government assistance.
In Sweden there is a socialized medical system where the system and
the facilities are owned and operated by the government and most
physicians are salaried employees.
Britain has a dual system where everyone is eligible for care provided by
the National Health Service, but where private care can be purchased.
Japan has a private system where most of the costs are covered by
government or privately run.
For the most part, medicine in the United States is a private, profitmaking industry where more money brings better care. It is called a directfee system where patients pay directly for the services of physicians and
hospitals. The poor in the US fare badly compared to their counterparts in
Europe and Canada, accounting for the relatively high death rates among
both infants and adults. It is the most expensive medical care system in the
world, yet leaves 16% of Americans with no medical insurance at all.
The Shortage of Nurses:Enrolments in nursing programmes have dropped because women have
expanded occupational opportunities more and many nurses leave the
profession because of difficult working conditions and lack of recognition
from physicians and hospital manager.
Structural-Functional Analysis: Role Theory
Structural-functionalism provides a view of illness as
dysfunctional for society.
The Sick Role:The key concept in structural-functionalist analysis of illness is the
sick role, or patterns of behaviour that are defined as appropriate

for those who are ill. As explained by Talcott Parsons, the sick role
has three characteristics: (1) a sick person is exempted from routine
responsibilities, (2) a sick person must want to be well, and (3) a sick
person must seek competent help.
The Physician's Role:Physicians evaluate claims of sickness and use their specialized
knowledge to restore patients to normal routines.
Critics suggest that Parson's model does not deal with a more
prevention-oriented approach to health and applies to acute rather
than chronic illnesses.
Symbolic-Interaction Analysis: The Meaning of Health
Health and medical care are seen as social constructions.
The Social Construction of Illness:The health of any person must be put into the context of the
general health of the society. The definition of health and healthy
lifestyles varies cross-culturally and historically. Further, definitions of
illness are negotiated within particular social situations. What may be
illness to a person in one situation, may be seen as a mere
inconvenience in another..
The Social Construction of Treatment
Research by Joan Emerson involving gynaecological exams is
used to illustrate how physicians "craft" their physical surroundings to
make specific impressions on others.
A problem with the symbolic-interaction approach is that it
minimizes an objective sense of health and illness.
Social-Conflict Analysis: Health and Inequality
Access to Care:Social-conflict analysis suggests that capitalist systems allocate
health care resources in an unequal fashion. This problem is most
obvious in the U.S. where 46 million Americans lack medical

The Profit Motive:It is argued that the profit motive encourages unsafe medical
practices, needless tests, unnecessary surgery, and the
overprescribing of drugs, rather than focusing on improvement in
people's lifestyles.
Medicine as Politics:Medicine has not been as politically neutral as it claims when it
opposes government-supported health programs, ignores the impact
of inequality on health, practises racial and sexual discrimination, and
focuses on biological rather than social causes of illness. Clearly,
however, gains in health through medicine have happened. The
Applying Theory Table (p. 561) summarizes the three approaches
to health.
Health and health care are improving, especially in the industrialized
world, and people recognize that they can personally influence their health
through quitting smoking, eating sensibly, and exercising regularly.
The major problem to be tackled is inequality within societies and
between societies as the poor receive less adequate medical care.
Life expectancy in the world as a whole has been improving and the U.S.
and Canada have pledged significant amounts for AIDS treatment and
Challenges still exist as poor health conditions remain in many poor
societies and the possibility of a flu pandemic continues .

Kendall, Diana. Sociology In Our Times. 6th edition. United States: Thomson Wadsworth,
2006. (414-441)
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Career Guide to Industries, 2008-09
Edition, Health Care, on the Internet at