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Canada (161,862)
Sociology (1,513)
SOC100H5 (538)
Jayne Baker (154)
Chapter 11

Chapter 11

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Jayne Baker

Health and Medicine The Black Death  shows the three main themes of the sociology of health and medicine: 1. health risks are unevenly distributed 2. health problems change over time  because of increased life expectancy, degenerative conditions have developed differently than a century ago  Life Expectancy: the average age at death of the members of a population 3. Superstitions and ignorance surrounded the treatment of the ill Health and Inequality Defining and Measuring Health  Health: According to the WHO, a state of complete physical, social and mental well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity  Sociologists usually measure the health of a population by examining the negative: rate of illness and death (also measure life expectancy) o Healthy populations should experience less illness and longer life than unhealthy populations o Subtract the country’s life expectancy with the highest life expectancy (83 years in Japan) and those are the years of which citizens are deprived due to avoidable social causes The Social Causes of Illness and Death  Human-environmental Factors o Social class, occupation, and nationality often shape the differences in the environments in which people work and live (some foster good health while others impose added risks) o Environmental Racism: the tendency to heap environmental dangers on the disadvantaged  E.g. hazardous waste sites and polluting industries are located near First Nations communities or areas populated by the poor, the politically marginalized, or certain visible minority groups  Introduction of sour gas wells and logging operations around the reserves of the Lubicon First Nations caused population to suffer from tuberculosis, respiratory difficulties, and cancer at rates far above the national average  The pulp-and-paper industry’s mercury poisoning of the English-Wabigoon river system led to the virtual destruction of the Grassy Narrows Indians’ way of life and means of livelihood  Patterns of atmospheric cycling made the North a dumping ground for industrial chemicals that bioaccumulate and contaminate the breast milk of Inuit mothers  Lifestyle Factors o Smoking, excessive use of alcohol and drugs, poor diet, lack of exercise, and social isolation are associated with poor health and premature death o Effects of Social Isolation:  Unmarried people have a greater chance of dying prematurely than married couples  At any age, the death of a spouse increases a person’s chance of dying, while remarrying decreases the chance of dying  Older people who retire, lose a spouse and friends, and cannot rely on family members or state institutions for social support are prone to fall into depression which contributes to ill health  Factors related to the public health and health care systems o Public Health System: comprises government-run programs that ensure access to clean drinking water, basic sewage and sanitation services, and inoculation against infectious diseases  Absence is associated with high rates of disease and low life expectancy o Health Care System: composed of a nation’s clinics, hospitals, and other facilities for ensuring health and treating illness (ensures citizens’ access to a minimum standard of health care)  Absence is associated with high rates of disease and shorter life expectancy  Country of Residence  HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death in the poverty-stricken part of Africa south of the Sahara desert, yet spending on research and treatment is concentrated in the rich countries; GLOBAL INEQUALITY INFLUENCES THE EXPOSURE OF PEOPLE TO DIFFERENT HEALTH RISKS  Biomedical advances improve health and increase life expectancy, but the creation of a sound public health system is associated with epidemics declining in frequency and severity while life expectancy soars  Positive association between national wealth and good health; rich countries are able to spend a substantial amount on health care and have many medical personnel, as a result, infant mortality (the number of deaths before the age of one for every 1000 live births in a population in one year) is low  Class Inequalities and Health Care  People with low income die at a younger age, has a higher rate of illness and has a shorter life expectancy  Poverty is associated with high rates of tobacco and alcohol consumption, obesity, physical inactivity, and violence  Health deteriorates as you move down the class hierarchy because: 1. High stress and the inability to cope with it  People in lower classes experience more stress due to difficult living conditions  People higher up in class structure are able to turn stress “off” (take a few days off work or go on vacation)  Many problems are more burdensome when money and influence are not available to address them (rich can simply pay for legal help)  Lower-class families must endure greater crowding, poorer dwelling quality, working conditions that are more dangerous and unpleasant, and longer work hours to make ends meet 2. Differences in the earliest stages of development that have lifelong consequences  Mothers with low incomes are more likely to have poor nutrition during pregnancy, stress, maternal smoking and misuse of drugs and alcohol, insufficient exercise and inadequate prenatal care which lead to suboptimal fetal development 3. Lack of knowledge  People who are less educated and have less exposure to educated advisers tend to have less knowledge about health lifestyles which contributes to their propensity to illness  Illness makes it more difficult for poor people to escape poverty 4. Unequal access to health resources  Poor Canadians live in areas that have inferior medical services and the quality of preventive, diagnostic, and treatment facilities is generally superior in urban areas  Many low- and middle-income Canadians have limited or no access to eye-care, dentistry, mental health counselling, and prescription drugs 5. Environmental exposure  Poor people are more likely to be exposed to environmental risks that have a negative impact on health  Racial Inequalities in Health Care  Partly due to economic differences among racial groups  Also due to negative health outcomes because of the cumulative effects of social exclusion based on race  Labour market segregation, high unemployment, low occupation status, substandard housing, dangerous or distressed neighbourhoods, homelessness, dangerous worksites, extended hours, multiple jobs, and experience with everyday forms of racism lead to unequal health service utilization and differential health status  Employed socially excluded group members are more likely to continue to live in inferior areas because of racial discrimination in housing (such areas typically suffer from reduced access to medical services)  Those who seek medical services often encounter racially based misunderstanding or even hostility  Gender Inequalities in Health Care  Gender bias in medical research  Slow to address and likely to neglect women’s health issues than men’s health issues; more research focused on “men’s diseases” than on “women’s diseases”  Women have been excluded from participating in major health research studies; medical research is only beginning to explore the fact that women may react differently from men to some illnesses and may require different treatment regimes  Gender bias in medical treatment: women undergo fewer medical treatments (e.g. transplants, cardiac procedures)  Low status of women in many less-developed countries re
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