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SOC 137D: How We Live and Die: The Social Context of Health and Health Care

We are used to thinking about diseases and illnesses as biological problems that need medical solutions. For example, suppose that a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer. Their cancer has an immediate, biological cause (genetic mutation) that we point to, and their doctor has an immediate, medical treatment (chemotherapy) that we can employ. This is how we think about health and practice medicine: focusing on the immediate causes and symptoms for one individual. Sociologists, however, view these situations differently, instead considering the social contexts of these diseases and thinking about the health of populations rather than of individuals. For example, perhaps they grew up in a town whose drinking water was poisoned by a local chemical factory, and this greatly increased their risk of getting cancer. How did circumstances throughout their life - many outside their control - like their socioeconomic status, government policies and local politics, and their access to medical more »
We are used to thinking about diseases and illnesses as biological problems that need medical solutions. For example, suppose that a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer. Their cancer has an immediate, biological cause (genetic mutation) that we point to, and their doctor has an immediate, medical treatment (chemotherapy) that we can employ. This is how we think about health and practice medicine: focusing on the immediate causes and symptoms for one individual. Sociologists, however, view these situations differently, instead considering the social contexts of these diseases and thinking about the health of populations rather than of individuals. For example, perhaps they grew up in a town whose drinking water was poisoned by a local chemical factory, and this greatly increased their risk of getting cancer. How did circumstances throughout their life - many outside their control - like their socioeconomic status, government policies and local politics, and their access to medical care affect their eventually getting cancer? In this course, we will introduce key concepts from the sociology of health and illness - including fundamental causes of disease, health disparities, social determinants of health, social stress, social capital, the social construction of illness, medicalization, health care delivery, the structure of health care systems, and public policy - to examine the social causes and contexts of disease and illness. How do social conditions affect our health? What even are "diseases" or "illnesses"? Who gets sick, and who stays sick? What is medicine and health care, and how do we decide who gets them? We will apply these theoretical concepts and frameworks to these questions to understand how health and illness are not only biological processes occurring within individuals but also social processes between people, groups, and institutions.
Terms: Sum | Units: 3
Instructors: Eun, T. (PI)
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