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SOCA02H3 Lecture Notes - Health Care In Canada, Health System, Japan Today

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Sheldon Ungar

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SOCA02 Chapter 19 Health and Medicine
The Black Death
o Plague was from a bacillus spreading from fleas to rats to people, killed many
because they lived close together in unsanitary conditions and spread easily
o Main themes of sociology of health and medicine:
Some groups were more likely to die, health risks are unevenly distributed
(women men, upper lower classes, rich poor countries, privileged
Health problems change over time
o Life expectancy: the average age at death of the members of a population
o Different treatment methods
Medieval doctors stressed importance of prevention, exercise, a balanced
diet and a congenial environment in maintaining good health modern
medicine emphasizes high-tech cures rather than on preventive and
environmental measures
Health and inequality defining and measuring health
o Life expectancy throughout the world is less than the 83 in Japan today
o Accounting for the difference between the highest average human lifespan in the
world and life expectancy in a given country is one of the main tasks of the
sociologist of health
The social causes of illness and death:
Human-environment factors
o Social class, occupation, and nationality correspond to differences in surroundings
o Gas wells, logging operations, hazardous waste sites and polluting industries are
usually near First Nation communities or areas populated by the poor, politically
marginalized, or certain visible minority groups
Lifestyle factors
o Smoking, alcohol, drugs, poor diet, lack of exercise, and social isolation are
associated with poor health and premature death
o Tobacco accounts for 1/5 of all deaths outweighs suicide, homicide and
o Unmarried people have a greater chance of dying earlier than married
Factors related to the public health and health care systems
o Public health system: government-run programs ensuring access to clean drinking
water, basic sewage, sanitation services and inoculations
o Health care system: nation’s clinics, hospitals, and other facilities for ensuring
health and treating illness
o Absence of these is associated with high rates of disease and low life expectancy
Country of residence
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o Providing citizens with clean water and a sewage system = decline in frequency
and severity of epidemics
o Industrialized countries developed public health systems in mid-19th century
o Positive association between national wealth and good health
o Infant mortality: annual number of deaths before the age of one for every 1000
live births
Low in rich countries
Class inequalities and health care
o Socioeconomic status is correlated with aspects of health and illness people with
low income die at a younger age than people with high income
o Health deteriorates moving down class hierarchy because:
High stress and inability to cope with it stress, financial problems
Differences in the earliest stages of development that have lifelong
consequences nutrition deficiencies during pregnancy, stress, smoking,
Lack of knowledge
Unequal access to health resources
Environmental exposure exposure to incinerators, mills, dumpsites,
factories, etc.
Racial inequalities in health care
o Marginalized groups are subject to negative health outcomes because of social
exclusion based on race
o Labour market segregation, high unemployment, low occupation status,
dangerous worksites, etc. with experiences of racism lead to unequal health
o Socially excluded groups with jobs still live in inferior areas due to racial
discrimination in housing, suffering from reduced access to medical services
Gender inequalities in health care: the feminist contribution
o Gender bias in medical research focus on “men’s diseases” like cardiac arrest,
than on “women’s diseases” like breast cancer. Women are also excluded in
major health research studies
o Gender bias
o Women live longer than men and have a greater need for long-term care. Low
status of women in developing countries lead to high rates of mortality and
morbidity (acute and chronic illness). ¼ -1/2 of deaths of women in developing
countries are to due pregnancy-related causes
o Canadian women face a higher risk of poverty after divorce and of widowhood
Comparative health care from a conflict perspective
o Rich countries spend more on health care than poor countries but this does not
mean it buys good health
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