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Sociology in Modules. Health and the Environment. Health and the Environment. 17. Module 51: Sociological Perspectives on Health Module 52: Social Epidemiology and Health Module 53: Health Care in the United States Module 54: Sociological Perspectives on the Environment. A Look Ahead.

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Sociology in modules

Sociology in Modules

Health and the Environment

Health and the environment

Health and the Environment


  • Module 51: Sociological Perspectives on Health

  • Module 52: Social Epidemiology and Health

  • Module 53: Health Care in the United States

  • Module 54: Sociological Perspectives on the Environment

A look ahead
A Look Ahead

  • Won’t the environment eventually threaten everyone, no matter how much organic food they consume?

  • What defines a healthy environment?

  • How does health care vary from one social class to another?

Culture and health
Culture and Health

Module 51

  • Culture-bound syndrome: Disease or illness that cannot be understood apart from its specific social context

  • Anorexia nervosa

Medical practitioners are being trained to recognize cultural beliefs related to medicine

Sociology in modules

Module 51

Table 51-1: Cultural Challenges to Medicine

Sociological perspectives on health and illness
Sociological Perspectives on Health and Illness

Module 51

  • Health: “State of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity” (Leavell and Clark 1965:14)

Health is relative, and we can view it in a social context

Functionalist approach
Functionalist Approach

Module 51

  • “Being sick” must be controlled so not too many people are released from their societal responsibilities

  • Sick role: Societal expectations about attitudes and behavior of a person viewed as being ill

  • Physicians function as “gatekeepers” for the sick role

Conflict approach
Conflict Approach

Module 51

  • Medicalization of society: Growing role of medicine as major institution of social control

  • Greatly expanded domain of expertise

  • Problems viewed using a medical model

  • Retains jurisdiction over health care

Conflict approach1
Conflict Approach

Module 51

  • Inequities in Health Care

  • Obvious inequities exist in health care

  • Brain drain: Immigration to U.S. and other industrialized nation of skilled workers, professionals, and technicians

  • Dramatic differences in infant morality rate: Number of deaths of infants under one year old per 1,000 live births in given year

Interactionist approach
Interactionist Approach

Module 51

  • Studies roles played by health care professionals and patients

  • Asserts patients may play an active role in positive or negative health

Labeling approach
Labeling Approach

Module 51

  • The designations healthy and ill generally involve social definition

  • Homosexuality noteworthy medical example of labeling

  • Can view variety of life experiences as illnesses or not

Table 51 2 sociological perspectives on health and illness
Table 51-2: Sociological Perspectives on Health and Illness

Module 51

Social epidemiology and health
Social Epidemiology and Health

Module 52

  • Social epidemiology: Study of distribution of disease, impairment, and general health status across a population

  • Incidence: Number of new cases of a specific disorder occurring within a given population during a stated period of time, usually a year

Social epidemiology and health1
Social Epidemiology and Health

Module 52

  • Prevalence: Number of cases of specific disorder that exist at a given time

  • Morbidityrates: Disease incidence figures presented as rates or number of reports per 100,000 people

  • Mortalityrate: Incidence of death in a given population

Social class
Social Class

Module 52

  • People in lower classes have higher rates of mortality and disability

  • Appear to be cumulative

  • Less able to afford quality medical care

  • Link between health and economic mobility

Race and ethnicity
Race and Ethnicity

Module 52

  • Health profiles of racial and ethnic groups reflect social inequality in U.S.

  • Poor economic and environmental conditions manifested in high morbidity and mortality rates

  • African Americans have higher death rates

  • Mexican Americans may use curanderismo: Form of holistic health care and healing


Module 52

  • Women experience higher prevalence of many illnesses but tend to live longer

  • Lower rate of cigarette smoking

  • Lower alcohol consumption

  • Lower rate of employment in dangerous occupations

  • Women more likely to seek treatment

Sociology in modules

Module 52

  • Most older people in U.S. have at least one chronic illness

  • Older people vulnerable to certain types of mental health problems

Older people use more health services than younger people

Figure 52 2 percentage of people without health insurance
Figure 52-2: Percentage of People without Health Insurance

Module 52

Research today
Research Today

Module 52

  • The AIDS Epidemic

  • Do the people you know take few risks sexually because of the danger of becoming infected with the AIDS virus? If not, why not?

  • Aside from obvious humanitarian reasons, why should the U.S. help countries in the fight against AIDS?

Health care in the united states
Health Care in the United States

Module 53

  • Health care costs skyrocketed in 35 years

  • In 2000, amount spent on health care equaled that spent on education, defense, prisons, farm subsidies, food stamps, and foreign aid combined

A historical view
A Historical View

Module 53

  • “Popular health movement” of the 1830s and 1840s emphasized preventive care and “self-help”

  • AMA institutionalized authority through programs of education and licensing

  • By 1920s, physicians controlled hospital technology, division of labor of health personnel, and other health professions

Physicians nurses and patients
Physicians, Nurses, and Patients

Module 53

  • Physicians have position of dominance with patients and nurses

  • Leads to dehumanizing physician-patient encounters

  • Publicity about malpractice suits and high medical costs further strained relationship

  • Controlled interactions with nurses

  • Increasingly, patients turning to media for health care information

Figure 53 1 total health care expenditures in the united states 1970 2019 projected
Figure 53-1: Total Health Care Expenditures in the United States, 1970-2019 (projected)

Module 53

Research today1
Research Today

Module 53

  • Medicine, Retail Style

  • Have you ever been treated at an in-store clinic? If so, were you satisfied with the care you received? Was the price reasonable?

  • Evaluate the emergence of clinics from a functionalist and then a conflict perspective. On balance, do you think these clinics are a benefit to society?

Alternatives to traditional health care
Alternatives to Traditional Health Care

Module 53

  • At least one of three adults in U.S. attempts to maintain good health or respond to illness through alternative health care techniques

  • Holistic medicine: Therapies in which the health care practitioner considers person’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual characteristics

Figure 53 3 use of complementary and alternative medicine
Figure 53-3: Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Module 53

The role of government
The Role of Government

Module 53

  • In 1946 Hill-Burton Action provided first subsidies for building and improving hospitals

  • 1965: Medicare and Medicaid established

  • Programs greatly expanded federal involvement in health care financing

1983: Government instituted cost-control program

The role of government1
The Role of Government

Module 53

  • Expansion of health insurance coverage enacted by Congress in 2010 raised hope of improved health care

  • Costs of the legislation, Tea Party members warned, would lead to higher taxes

Sociological perspectives on the environment
Sociological Perspectives on the Environment

Module 54

  • Environment people live in has noticeable effect on their health

  • Increases in population, together with economic development, have serious environmental consequences

Effects of growth and development
Effects of Growth and Development

Module 54

  • Humanecology: Interrelationships between people and their spatial settings and physical environments

  • Environment provides resources essential for life

  • Environment serves as a waste repository

  • Environment “houses” our species

Conflict view of the environment
Conflict View of the Environment

Module 54

  • Growing share of human and natural resources of developing countries redistributed to core industrialized nations

  • Environmental justice: Legal claims that racial minorities are disproportionately subjected to environmental hazards

Poor and oppressed bear brunt of environmental pollution

Environmental problems
Environmental Problems

Module 54

  • Three broad areas of concern

  • Air pollution

  • Water pollution

  • Global Warming

Sociology in the global community
Sociology in the Global Community

Module 54

  • The Mysterious Fall of the Nacirema

  • Have you ever visited a foreign culture and been struck by something that seemed odd to you but perfectly normal to everyone else?

  • If we could step back and take an objective look at what we are doing to the environment, would our society change for the better? Why or why not?

The impact of globalization
The Impact of Globalization

Module 54

  • Globalization can be good and bad for the environment

  • Industrialization increased pollution

  • Multinational corporations have incentive to carefully consider cost of natural resources

  • Environmental refugees are one reflection of interplay between globalization and environment


Module 54

  • Understanding the Issue

  • 1970: 25 million people turned out to observe first Earth Day

  • Citizens marched on behalf of specific environmental causes

  • Congress established the EPA

  • The Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts followed


Module 54

  • Understanding the Issue

  • Earth Day now on calendars of city councils, zoos, and museums worldwide

  • Increasingly, efforts to publicize concerns moving to Internet

  • General public has mixedreaction to environmental issues

  • Largest environmental organizations became increasingly bureaucratic


Module 54

  • Applying Sociology

  • Troubled that most powerful environmental organizations predominantly white, male-dominated, and affluent

  • Conflict perspective: major organizations accept funding from powerful corporations including oil and chemical companies

  • Environmental movement aroused resistance


Module 54

  • Initiating Policy

  • Economic downturn of 2008-2010 provided mixed blessing

  • Reduced use of fossil fuels

  • Established funds for creating green-collar jobs

  • Environmentalism moved to a bigger stage

  • People increasingly reluctant to ignore environmental issues