Sociology 3321F/G Lecture Notes - Diarrhea, Tuberculosis, Homicide
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Medicine – the social institution that involves a society’s organized ways of dealing with sickness and
- Back in 1941, international “health experts” identified three components of health: physical, mental,
and social. As symbolic interactionists stress, health is not an objective matter but, rather, a social
construction that varies from culture to culture.
- The concern of sociologists is not to define “true” health or “true” illness; rather, it is to analyze the
effects that people’s ideas of health and illness have on their lives, and even the ways in which people
determine that they are sick.
• Social Epidemiology – the study of disease and disability patterns in a population
• One way to see how the physical health of Americans has changed is to compare the leading causes of
death in two time periods. Many of the leading causes of death in 1900 (e.g., Tuberculosis and Diarrhea)
are no longer leading causes of death today. Similarly, some leading causes of death today (e.g., Murder
and Suicide) were not leading causes of death in 1900. These changes indicate that health is not only a
biological event; it is also social, following the contours of social change.
Social Status and Health
• Infant mortality rates are twice as high for disadvantaged groups
- The poorest in America can die from diseases that strike children in countries like the Sudan and
• African Americans are three times more likely to be poor compared to whites
- The poor suffer more disease, missed work, and the effects from addictive behaviors
• Whites can expect to live longer and be in better health
• Poverty also breeds stress and violence
- In 1994, 5,164 African American males died due to black on black homicide
Medicine in the United States
• Direct Fee System - The patient pays directly for services provided by the doctor
• Private Insurance - In 1999, fewer than half (43 percent) of Americans have health insurance paid for
by a private employer
• Public Insurance Programs