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SOCA01H3 Lecture Notes - Sick Role, Alternative Medicine, High Tech

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Malcolm Mac Kinnon

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Malak Patel | Chapter 19
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
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
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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
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,
multiple jobs, poor housinglead to differential health status
d) Gender inequalities in Health Care: Feminist Contribution
o Gender bias in medical research → address men’s health issues more
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