sociological perspectives on health and health care pdf

Sociological perspectives on health and health care pdf

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Medicine and Health

Medical Sociology in Africa

Table of contents

In the functionalist model, Parsons argued that illness is a form of deviance that disturbs the social function of a society. Discuss the functionalist perspective on illness in society, specifically the role the sick play in a specific society and how that role affects others. Structural functionalism, or simply functionalism, is a framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability.

Medicine and Health

Health and medicine are key areas of sociological specialization, but in the face of rapid global challenges, they are changing. The need for change is becoming more and more urgent and the relevance of some of the traditional approaches, frameworks and theoretical perspectives should be evaluated. The aim of this article is to reflect on this issue and to explore what could be done in response to scientific and societal developments. We argue that more innovative approaches and better research questions would guide us to be more responsive as medical sociologists.

In particular, we think that interdisciplinary and translative work hold untapped potentials for our field. For quite some time, the sociology of health and medicine has been an important specialty of sociology. Over the past decades, there has been an active dialogue, not only within general sociology, but also within other scientific fields, most notably medicine and, more recently, social policy research and economics. This has enriched the methodological and theoretical approaches available for the sociology of health and medicine.

Even though research questions have varied in topic largely from one period and paradigm to another, the number of research themes has persisted, and has found new nuances. The manifold questions, e. In addition, even though health has continuously improved, health inequalities and their novel manifestations, continue to be visible. Climate change and global migration, in addition to the effects of digitalization and new technologies on work, work-life balance, health and services, are among the newer developments that are strongly influencing the interests and discourses within the field of sociology of health and medicine 1.

In this article, we briefly address some key themes of the sociology of health and medicine, and highlight new approaches and novel research themes. We also outline the future potential of the sociology of health and medicine. Our main argument is that, unless we become more responsive to recent challenges and more engaged with other scientific approaches and frameworks, we may run the risk of losing the momentum: that of increased interest in health among the general population along with greater opportunities to explore health, illness, and medicine.

In addition to old themes gaining novel nuances, global phenomena are bringing about unforeseen problems resulting from interdependences between different fields. These grand questions are increasingly demanding also our attention. Even though some of the issues are already dealt with current sociology of health, they may require new alliancies, audiences, and responses. This notion points to more general approaches as opposed to the tendencies leading to increasing differentiation and specialization.

Here the new agenda for sociology of health proposes going against the grain of scientific development. Supporting our claim, a similar debate about the new sociological directions has recently been raised by Bradby She states that the challenge for this field is to continue its critical approach to social processes of health and illness and to integrate scientific evidence with people's experiences. Global challenges of sociology have also been debated recently by Bhambra and de Sousa Santos , who suggest that new forms of inequality and injustice will rise—a problem that will need to be dealt with in the field of sociology.

One of the traditional key themes in the sociology of health and medicine has been demographic changes. The effects of the population aging are visible in the functional capability and quality of life of the population. People live longer, and a large part of the additional years are healthy WHO, , even though the elderly tend to live at home longer and with worse health. As the population dependency ratio is weakening and the share of the elderly population will grow considerably in the future, challenges regarding care and services are gaining importance.

It has been claimed that aging is becoming more normative as lives become longer; the elderly are expected to participate socially and to lead a healthy life. This represents a significant change: old age was previously seen as a phase of life characterized by passivity and frailty Higgs and Gilleard, The sociological study of aging shows, however, that with medicalization there is also a risk of perceiving aging and old age only in terms of problems and threats.

This creates the risk of old age not being seen as a desirable and multifaceted phase of life. Another quite obvious global challenge derives from immigration trends. The greatly increased numbers of refugees that have been a combined result of climate change and financial or political crises in the areas of origin have dramatically changed many so-called Western countries.

Immigrants may provide new opportunities for receiving societies by supplementing the employment sector in otherwise aging populations, but they may also bring new challenges, e.

Sociological sensitivity provides perspectives for understanding the cultural backgrounds, norms and behavioral traits, as well as their interlinks with social determinants among the immigrants and asylum seekers thus highlighting the importance of social structures in leading to ethnic health inequalities. Moreover, sociological perspectives may provide the understanding necessary to facilitate the acculturation and settlement of the asylum seekers into the receiving societies.

Due to selective migration, health inequalities among immigrants may even be reversed in comparison with the native population. Personnel in the social and health care sector should have sufficient knowledge of the immigrants' cultural and other backgrounds to be able to succeed in promoting their health and welfare.

Health inequalities continue to be one of the key themes in this field. Inequalities in health remain persistent in many countries and globally, health and illness are distributed in an increasingly unequal way. WHO pointed out that illness is becoming increasingly intertwined with poverty and deprivation. Even though research on health inequalities is already an established subject area with a long tradition, serious political attempts to tackle health inequalities have been rare. Although many policy programmes and international resolutions have been put in place, their execution has often suffered from conflicting interests, too few resources and a limited scope that has not allowed addressing the root causes or key drivers of health inequalities.

Furthermore, health inequalities raise compelling ethical questions. Current societies are increasingly characterized by inequalities in wellbeing in a broad sense, which stresses the importance of decreasing socioeconomic differences in health in future health and welfare policies.

A recent European comparative study suggests that the persistent health inequalities may be, in fact, a by-product of the modern welfare state Mackenbach, If this is the case, decreasing these inequalities would require many extreme actions. Further, tackling inequalities is more and more challenging due to the rapid changes facing current societies. Worldwide, many countries have faced large-scale social challenges due to the international financial crisis: high levels of unemployment and social exclusion.

The era of austerity has been directly observable in many countries, also in the social, political, and cultural determinants of population health Stuckler and Basu, There is a growing understanding of the fact that economic cycles, structures and societal conditions necessarily reflect wellbeing and related inequalities over a long period of time.

More comparative studies are needed to identify successful reactions to limiting the health consequences of economic strains. Analyses on viable solutions in different welfare models are necessary, a question that calls for more context-sensitive research. Even though the global economy has recently shown signs of more positive trends, the legacy from the age of austerity is likely to have left far-reaching effects.

These effects may result in a growing generational gap if future generations suffer more from adversities in health as well as a general lack of future prospects.

Thus, intergenerational disadvantages of health continue to be among the key themes of the sociology of health, but enriched with new research imperatives as part of the new agenda. Comparisons between different birth cohorts and time periods evoke questions of critical moments and turning points as determinants of health and illness. Along with the themes concerning the aging population, new research questions arise from the later periods and transitions of life, while current research emphasizes early childhood conditions and experiences.

Forthcoming research interests also include identifying associations and causal effects that have influence over several generations. The complexity of healthy lifestyles is another traditionally important theme. Growing individual tendencies may lead to temporary phenomena such as fashionable diets and health gadgets that may benefit small parts of the population, and thus widen health inequalities further.

Identifying the importance of these occurrences and their consequences is an intriguing task for the field of sociology of health and medicine. Some researchers, such as Schrecker and Bambra , emphasize the macro-level by illustrating the consequences of neo-liberalism. This dictates the necessity of better understanding the multi-layered nature of health inequalities in the future. Partly this complexity is likely to result from the increasingly circulatory nature of sociological research Mesny, as it is becoming used and abused by conventional and social media.

The critical sociology of health has also recently demonstrated the intersections of health by showing the complex and historically patterned interaction between social position e. Due to these socioeconomic interdependencies a more comprehensive response is required that combines the intellectual efforts of sociologists with many other sciences. Identifying factors that determine lifestyles is also a theme that is likely to remain high on the research agenda.

Social and health services and policies are facing new challenges, for example, due to an ever-increasing mobile and multi-ethnic population. Health sociology that embraces cultural multiplicity and heterogeneity has much to contribute under these societal conditions. Similarly Bradby et al. From a sociological perspective, a health-promoting lifestyle is to be understood in a broader sense than simply as behavior related to health.

Related research shows that choices, e. These include factors such as pleasure or sociability, which are based on values, norms, and potentials. The origins of the sociology of health are multi-methodological, which corroborates with the multi-etiological nature of determinants of health. New kinds of research material such as digital material and other open data allowing novel studies are becoming available, which promises better and a more nuanced understanding of the core questions of the research area.

Further, from a critical perspective, the very praxis of health promotion has called for sociological scrutiny. Again, while the promise of technology may be great, the social and identity consequences of the related practices are still poorly understood. Classic concepts, including norms, values, and attitudes related to health, should remain subjects for health sociologists to explore.

When late modern, post-industrial societies aim to become more effective and to intensify social and health care systems, cost-efficiency often appears to be the key ideology guiding operative planning. Aspiring financial benefits may have led to surprising side-effects, in that health care is becoming a commodity. From this point of view, how health is valued is extremely important. The societal, juridical, ethical, and moral questions on health care, pharmaceutic and life-maintaining industry will most likely receive more emphasis in the sociology of health.

Abortion, genetic engineering, and euthanasia are some examples of the more traditional themes, but many new phenomena, such as gene banks and nanotechnology, bring about questions that are likely to raise concern.

Along with the development of health technology, new ethical, social but also economic dimensions on human body have opened up. These changes signify that the human body is becoming perceived as a biobank or raw material consisting of genes, cells and tissues. Its utilization becomes more and more interesting, and it is the object of an increasing number of technological innovations. Societies will have to outline guidelines to govern the economic activity that concentrates on the biology of bodies.

Appealing to individuals' autonomy to control their own bodies will be insufficient given that not everyone is equally prepared to maintain autonomy, take children as an example see Lafontaine, As they reach new areas, screenings involve ethical, juridical and social risks and uncertainties.

As they become routine, increases the risk of underestimating the anxiety and the helplessness experienced by lay people. Furthermore, screening is not only a medical but also a social intervention Armstrong and Eborall, Along with the development of technology, digital applications are evolving, as well as spatial information, which offers novel methodological options for the sociology of health and medicine.

Whether the focus is on the choices people make, the prevention of health complaints, or the social structures framing them, big data will open up completely new research settings and questions Lupton, Similar opportunities lie in self-produced and self-curated data. We have already witnessed how these new technologies affect our social and health practices fundamentally. The sphere of their ramifications is yet unforeseen but the existing approaches to exploring new technologies need to be developed already simply due to their omnipresence.

The knowledge and critical perspectives of health and medical sociology are especially useful for people working in the health care sector and policy makers in the field, as they highlight the associations and causal relations of health and illness and of societal, social, and behavioral factors. Health and illness can be understood better by scrutinizing a person as an individual, as part of a social group, and part of society in general.

Medical Sociology in Africa

Sociology assumes that a functioning society depends upon healthy people and upon controlling illness. Parsons identified four components to the sick role. Society allows those who fulfill these criteria to assume the sick role, but society loses sympathy for and denies the role to those who appear to like it or those who do not seek treatment. In other cases, family and friends may show sympathy for a while, but lose patience with the victim and assume he or she is seeking attention or is a hypochondriac. Although many believe that science alone determines illness, this sociological view points out that society determines sickness as well. In today's culture, addicts may take on the sick role as long as they seek help and make progress toward getting out of the sick role.

Health is often viewed as an individual trait arising from lifestyle choices and individual physiology. Sociological research has contributed to improving the definition of health and well-being through studies of how social structure and culture impact health, the prevalence of illness among individuals and groups, the availability and acceptance of treatment, and the functioning of the health care delivery system. See more Research on Medicine and Health. A best seller for many years, this invaluable reference has been published by the ASA since and provides comprehensive information for academic administrators, advisers, faculty, students, and a host of others seeking information on social science departments in the U. Included are listings for graduate departments of sociology. In addition to name and rank, faculty are identified by highest degree held, institution and date of degree, and areas of specialty interest. Special programs, tuition costs, types of financial aid, and student enrollment

This book presents a comprehensive discussion of classical ideas, core topics, currents, and detailed theoretical underpinnings in medical sociology. It is a globally renowned source and reference for those interested in social dimensions of health and illness. The presentation is enriched with explanatory and illustrative styles. The design and illustration of details will shift the minds of the readers from mere classroom discourse to societal context the space of health issues , to consider the implications of those ideas in a way that could guide health interventions. The elemental strengths are the sociological illustrations from African context, rooted in deep cultural interpretations necessitated because Africa bears a greater brunt of health problems. More so, the classical and current epistemological and theoretical discourse presented in this book are indicative of core themes in medical sociology in particular, but cut across a multidisciplinary realm including health social sciences e.

Table of contents

Each of the three major theoretical perspectives approaches the topics of health, illness, and medicine differently. You may prefer just one of the theories that follow, or you may find that combining theories and perspectives provides a fuller picture of how we experience health and wellness. According to the functionalist perspective, health is vital to the stability of the society, and therefore sickness is a sanctioned form of deviance. Talcott Parsons was the first to discuss this in terms of the sick role : patterns of expectations that define appropriate behavior for the sick and for those who take care of them. According to Parsons, the sick person has a specific role with both rights and responsibilities.

Health and medicine are key areas of sociological specialization, but in the face of rapid global challenges, they are changing. The need for change is becoming more and more urgent and the relevance of some of the traditional approaches, frameworks and theoretical perspectives should be evaluated. The aim of this article is to reflect on this issue and to explore what could be done in response to scientific and societal developments. We argue that more innovative approaches and better research questions would guide us to be more responsive as medical sociologists. In particular, we think that interdisciplinary and translative work hold untapped potentials for our field.

The Functionalist Approach

As this definition suggests, health is a multidimensional concept. Although the three dimensions of health just listed often affect each other, it is possible for someone to be in good physical health and poor mental health, or vice versa. Medicine refers to the social institution that seeks to prevent, diagnose, and treat illness and to promote health in its various dimensions. This social institution in the United States is vast, to put it mildly, and involves more than 11 million people physicians, nurses, dentists, therapists, medical records technicians, and many other occupations. Finally, health care refers to the provision of medical services to prevent, diagnose, and treat health problems. With these definitions in mind, we now turn to sociological explanations of health and health care. As usual, the major sociological perspectives that we have discussed throughout this book offer different types of explanations, but together they provide us with a more comprehensive understanding than any one approach can do by itself.

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Theoretical Perspectives on Health and Medicine

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