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SOCA02H3 (398)
Lecture 2

Lecture 2 - Jan. 17, 2013.docx

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Ivanka Knezevic

Health and Society - Structural relationship between society and health: both the causes and the consequences of health are social - Social construction of health and disease: definition of health is social - Attributed to Drauzio Varella: “In today’s world five times more time and money is being invested in drugs for male virility and silicone implants for women, than in the cure of Alzheimer’s disease. In a few years. We’ll have a generation of old people with perky breasts and hard penises, but none of them will remember what to do with them.” Sociology theories of health: structuralism - Health is necessary for the smooth running of the social system - All social structures need to operate efficiently in order for the social system to maintain good health for the population. Social policies reflect this - The sick role: sets illness apart from deviance and enables smooth functioning of society despite illness - The sick are exempted from normal roles and duties. They are expected to want to recover and seek out technically competent help Marxism and neo-Marxism (Clarke: conflict theory) - Health and ill-health results from inadequate and oppressive economic conditions - Focus: distribution of health and illness across the social structure - Engels 1845. The Condition of the Working Class in England: dangerous and exhausting work, high density and unsanitary conditions of dwellings. Frequent epidemics - Social construction of illness reflects inequality o 1. Executives claim high stress, but research shows that personal assistants actually suffer from it: stress is caused by high demands and inability to control work environment o 2. Investment in (profitable) treat in and not in (unprofitable) prevention. North America has highest prevalence of most types of cancer, due to chemical and electro-magnetic pollution Symbolic interactionism - Social meaning/interpretation of illness. E.g., is bulimia understood as an illness or personal choice? Are its causes psychological or social? - Stigma of disease implies that illness is caused by immoral behaviour: unregulated sexuality, laziness, risk-taking behaviour, etc. - Foucault: mental illness only became stigmatized in industrial society, because of the paramount importance given to production. Pre-industrial societies accepted or revered mental illness, as a sign of divine influence Feminism - Focus on gender inequality, social justice, and social changes in health - Belief that breast cancer would have received earlier research attention, were it not a women’s disease. Contradictory results of publicity campaigns: improved early detection (although racialized), increased fear, limited investment in research, no initiatives at prevention - Prevalence of heart disease is the same among Canadian women and men, but women are less likely to seek treatment and less likely to be taken seriously by their physicians. High-dose calcium (statins and osteoporosis prevention) contributes to heart disease - Constitution of a disease as a “women’s” may harm men: 25
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