Sociological Approaches To Health And Health Care

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Chapter 2 Notes
Sociological approaches to health and health care


-Sociology is the study of human interaction, its relation to overall social structures
-Sociology of health seeks to understand the illnesses and health within societies
-Sociology in medicine was first articulated by Robert Strauss in 1957
-Sociology in medicine wants to understand health related problems to create better public health
-Sociology of medicine wants to understand society or sociological concepts through the lens of health problems
-In order to better understand health issues, you have to understand the different sociological theories that apply

Structural Functionalism Theory

-Has a macro approach and focuses on the social system how institutions exists to maintain order in society
-Structural functionalism and its relation to health and illness was first introduced in “ The Social System” by Talcott Parsons in 1951
-Parsons described illness as a state of “disturbance” in the “normal” functioning of a normal human being that inducts both the state institution and individual ‘s personal reaction to social adjustments.
-Parsons also coined the team “The Sickrole”; what he meant by this is that when people get sick they are institutionalized and must obey these expectations
-He also argued that this “sick role” was necessary to maintain the equilibrium of a functioning society to be maintained.
-Most relevant to acute illnesses. Not so much with Chronic illness and disability where it would entail a permanent role status
-Different doctor- patient models, from different illnesses

Symbolic Interactionism (micro):

- It's a school of thought that stems from the Weberian tradition (1864-1920) where they focus on the interactions between individuals and the meanings that these interactions create.

- Meaning arise from interactions that you have with others in society.
- takes a small scale view of society and focuses on the interactions between individuals and through this it can explain social order.
- The meaning we give something can change due to our interactions or just change overtime and things can have different values depending on the person.
- It was first defined by Herbert Blummer in 1937 and he defined it by three key principles:

1) Each individual gives a meaning to certain things and act based on those meanings
2) These meanings arise out of social interactions

3) People change depending on their interactions with people/objects and give value to certain things.

Social Constructionism (macro):

- School of thought that came out of symbolic interactionism

- Interested in relating to the broader aspects of society

- More sensitive to boarder issues and how society interacts with people’s ideas

- Theory that knowledge, theories and many aspects of the world are not real, but because we give them reality through social agreements.

- We give everything meaning and our identity is created by the interactions with other people.

- Explains reality through the thoughts of human and not fundamental facts

- Argues that the idea of we as people creating everything

- Tries to look at the relationship between personal understanding and how they shape society and vice versa

- Everything that people say and do build together to create facts. It can be argued that all medical facts are socially created.

- Irving Zola in 1972 created the Medicalization theory.
- It's processed by which symptoms, life events, and deviant behaviours become defined disease. as a medical
- There are 5 steps to the process of Medicalization of Deviance

1) Behaviour being defined as deviant

2) Prospecting: Discovery of the disease

3) Claims-making: Its medical and non-medical interests that promote new medical designation/ideas
4) Legitimacy: Securing medical recognition

5) Institutionalization: It is the establishment of the disease and/or treatment


-Often referred to