Class Notes (839,097)
Canada (511,185)
Sociology (2,434)
SOCA01H3 (591)


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Malcolm Mac Kinnon

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Chapter 19: Health & Medicine The Black Death  Epidemic spread along trade routes in 1346→ called Black Death → killed 1/3 of Europe’s pop  Cause of the plague was a bacillus that spread from lice to rats to people  Spread so quickly b/c many ppl lived together in unsanitary conditions  Researched the problem → found conjunction of Saturn, Jupitar & Mars had occurred in 1345  Resulting hot, humid conditions caused Earth to emit poisonous vapours  To prevent the plague, ppl should refrain from eating poultry, pork, beef, fish, olive oil o Shouldn’t sleep during daytime o Shouldn’t engage in excessive exercise o Nothing should be cooked in rainwater o Bathing should be avoided  Only ppl who avoided the plague were → Pope, Jews, well-to-do  Women & men, upper & lower classes, rich & poor countries exposed to health risks to varying degrees  Story of Black Death suggests that: 1) health risks are unevenly distributed  2) health problems change over time  3) no special qualifications were required to administer medical treatment  Life expectancy: avg age @ death of the members of a population  Leading causes of death: in 1901 → Tuberculosis; in 2001→ cancer, heart disease, stroke Health & Inequality Defining & Measuring Health  Health *WHO defi+: “ability of an individual to achieve his/her potential & to respond positively to the challenges of the environment o 3 basic resources for health: 1) income, 2) shelter, 3) food  When it comes to measuring the health of a pop, sociologists examine –tive: rates of illness & death  French woman (Jeanne Calment) lived to be 122  Only 1 in 100 ppl in richest countries now lives to be 100.  Maximum average human life span: avg age of death for an entire pop under IDEAL conditions  Life expectancy has ↑ed @ a steady rate of 2.5% per decade  Life expectancy < 50 years → countries in Sub-Saharan Africa; Highest in Japan → 82.8 years  Canadian avg human life span: 80.7 o [Canadians being deprived of 2 yrs of life b/c of avoidable social causes] Social Causes of Illness & Health 1) Human-environmental factors 1 o Divisions like social class, occupation & nationality often correspond to differences in the surroundings in which ppl work & live o Some foster good health, others impose risks for poor health Malak Patel | Chapter 19 o Environmental racism: the tendency for hazardous waste sites & polluting industries to be located near First Nations communities or areas of poor/disadvantaged minority groups o The chemicals bioaccumulate, delivering ↑er level of toxic concentration each level UP the food chain 2) Lifestyle factors o Smoking, excessive use of alcohol & drugs, poor diet, lack of exercise, social isolation o Smoking → associated w/ lung cancer, strokes, cardiovascular disease o Social isolation a big problem among older ppl who retire, lose a spouse 3) Factors related to the public health & health care systems o Public health system: comprises a gov’t run programs that ensure access to clean drinking water, basic sewage & inoculation against infectious diseases i. Absence of PHS associated w/ ↑ rates of disease & low life expectancy o Health care system: composed of a nation’s clinics, hospitals & other facilities for ensuring health & treating illness  Exposure to above 3 causes are strongly related to: a) Country of Residence o AIDs, extreme poverty are leading causes of death in some countries [ex-Haiti] o Case of AIDS/HIV illustrates global inequality influences different health risks o Biomedical advances & sound public health system (most IMP health indicator) ↑es life expectancy o There is a +ve association b/w national wealth & good health o Infant mortality: the annual # of deaths before the age of 1 every 1000 live births i. Low in rich countries like Canada; low TB cases as well b) Class Inequalities & Health Care o On avg, ppl w/ low income die @ a younger age o Being poor also associated w/ ↑ rates of tobacco & alcohol consumption, violence o Behavioural risk factors [tobacco use, heavy drinking, obesity] are weak predictors of health status as compared to socioeconomic measure [income] o Life expectancy shorter for those lower in hierarchies o Why? b/c of: i. High stress & the inability to cope w/ it ii. Differences in the earliest stages of development that have life-long consequences iii. Lack of knowledge about healthy lifestyles iv. Unequal access to health resources v. Environmental exposure [environ risks] c) Racial inequalities in Health Care o Life exp shorter among Aboriginals, illegal drug use ↑ among Aboriginals o More pregnant Inuit & Indian women smoke o Negative health outcomes b/c of social exclusion o Labour market segregation, ↑ unemployment, low occupation status, homelessness, 2 multiple jobs, poor housing—lead to differential health status d) Gender inequalities in Health Care: Feminist Contribution o Gender bias in medical research → address men’s health issues more Malak Patel | Chapter 19 o Gender bias in medical treatment → ex) women undergo fewer kidney transplants o b/c women live longer, they have greater need for L-T care o morbidity: acute & chronic illness (↑ in developing country women) o women face ↑er risk of poverty after divorce Comparative Health Care from Conflict & Functionalist Perspectives  American case shows that spending more money on health care doesn’t ALWAYS improve the health of a nation  Why? B/c: 1) Gap b/w rich & poor is greater in U.S. than in Can & Japan i. In general, the ↑ the level of inequality, the more unhealthy the pop is 2) Prices for health care are high in U.S.  Must examine the American health care system from a comparative perspective  Conflict theory → concerned w/ how privileged grps seek to maintain their advantages & subordinate grps seek to increase theirs o Conflict theory is an ideal approach to analyzing American health care system  U.S. lacks a public health system that covers entire pop  American health care system—substantial private provision—leaves many ppl poorly served Private Health Insurance  Most ppl obtain private health insurance thru their employers or unions  About 85% of employees receive their health coverage thru Health Maintenance Org [HMO]  HMOs→ private corporations that collects payments & when an employee needs medical treatment, HMO administers it o Are in the business of making a profit, goal→keep costs low!  Disadv: provides low average quality of health care in U.S.  Adv: health institutions are so profitable that they can invest enormous sums in R&D & high salaries to attract best Drs & researchers [functionalist view] o waiting times are shorter→ for those who can afford it  U.S. enjoys best health care system
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