soc101 - health & medicine

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  • Introduction to Sociology | Hunter CollegeJessie Daniels, PhD

    Sociology of Health & Medicine

  • Today

    Key Questions: Why are some people healthy & others not?

    How is diagnosis a form of social control?

    How are health & morality linked?

    Key Concepts: Structural Determinants of Health

    Structural Violence



  • is it because some lead good lives &

    others do not?

  • is it because some lead good lives &

    others do not?

  • what is the single best predictor of

    someones overall health?

  • zip code

  • 10028 or 10035

  • Health of those living in 10028

    Life expectancy: 80 yrs

    Low rates of childhood asthma

    Low mortality for heart disease and cancer

  • Health of those living in 10035

    Life expectancy: 70 yrs

    High rates of childhood asthma

    Higher rates of mortality from cancer and heart disease

  • Boston: % of adults with diabetes by T stop

  • how do we explain this?

  • Health is (mostly) structural

  • Zip Code is a proxy measure for structure

  • Poorer neighborhoods, more exposure

  • Structural factors that damage health

  • Structural factors that damage health

  • Structural Determinants of Health

  • why are the same groups damaged?

  • Structural violence: systematic ways

    in which social structures harm or

    otherwise disadvantage individuals.

  • Structural violence is one way of describing

    social arrangements that put individuals and

    populations in harms way The

    arrangements are structural because they are

    embedded in the political and economic

    organization of our social world; they are

    violent because they cause injury to people

    neither culture nor pure individual will is at

    fault; rather, historically given (and often

    economically driven) processes and forces

    conspire to constrain individual agency. ~ Dr. Paul Farmer

  • Sample question: The people of

    Flint, Michigan have not had clean

    water for over three years. High

    levels of lead in the water are

    correlated with high rates of school

    suspension. How is this a form of

    structural violence?

  • Possible answer: The water crisis

    in Flint, Michigan is a form of

    structural violence because the

    causes are embedded in the political

    and economic organization of our

    social world. It is violent because it is

    causing injury to people.

  • medicalization

  • medicalization: a process by which

    normal human conditions and

    problems become defined and


    as medical conditions

  • a few historical examples

  • drapetomania

  • drapetomania: a mental illness

    that cause enslaved people to have

    an uncontrollable desire to run away

    from captivity (1851)

  • hysteria

  • nervous exhaustion and

    extreme excitability

  • the rest cure

  • medicalization is a type of labeling

  • Labeling Theory

    Everyone labels

    Those with power are able to label someone and make others accept that label

    Labeling can lead to self-fulfilling prophecy

    If the label is especially damaging, it can become a master status

  • medicalization is a form of

    social control

  • medicalization is most effective on

    those with little social power

  • does medicalization still


  • yes

  • Four Agents of Medicalization

    Medical professionals (diagnosis, prescriptions)

    Patients (response to ads, requests for diagnosis and prescriptions)

    Corporations(advertising, marketing to MDs)

    Social norms(support for the sick role, sanctions for resisting diagnosis)

  • During 1960s, sharp increase in

    diagnosis of African Americans

    particularly men as schizophrenic

    after DSM-11 added hostility and

    aggression as symptoms

  • diagnosis exerts social control through labeling

  • medicalization permeates our culture

  • its not just corporations

  • we actively engage in


  • womens bodies are policed &

    we police ourselves through


  • Sample question: There are some

    who suggest that small breasts are a

    medical condition that require

    surgery to fix. How is this a form of


  • Possible answer: Labeling

    someone who has small breasts as

    unwell or having a condition is a

    form of medicalization because it

    takes a normal human conditions

    and defines it as a medical condition

    in need of treatment.

  • Healthism: a preoccupation with

    personal health as the primary focus

    or goal, which is to be attained

    primarily through the modification of

    individual life styles

  • they argue as better health

    is one of those ruling ideas

  • Healthism: a key strategy of neoliberalism

  • (recall neoliberalism is a form of capitalism

    that says the marketplace is the best way

    to distribute social goods)

  • if we are busy policing our bodies and

    modifying our individual behavior,

  • then we have no time for addressing the real,

    structural factors that are actually damaging to

    health, like poverty or housing or clean water.

  • the fact is investment structural factors is the

    most important intervention for improving


  • Sample question: Recently,

    Congressman Brooks (R-AL) said

    that people who live good lives dont

    have pre-existing conditions. How

    are they an example of healthism?

    How are his comments an example

    of the ruling ideas?

  • Possible answers: Rep. Brooks

    comments are an example of healthism

    because they suggest that health is entirely

    the result of individual choices. His

    comments are also an example of the idea

    that the ruling ideas, in this case better

    health, serve the interests of those in

    power. In this instance, a wealthy member

    of Congress is trying to deny access to

    health care for everyone else, and his ideas

    serve to justify that action.

  • What should you do before next class?

    1. Be sure youve read Ch. 19, Health & Medicine in your text.

    2. Print out your Video Worksheet for the film on Thursday.3. Brush up on current events for final exam. Check #SOC101

    hashtag on Twitter.