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Relating social theories to medicine

Video transcript

when you step back and look at the sociology content here you might be wondering how in the world any of this applies to medicine you might say it has nothing to do with the physical health of a person so why do you need to know all of this why do these social theories and social structures matter to someone in the field of medicine let's go through the different theories and figure this out first off we have functionalism remember functionalism is the theory that different institutions in a society adjust to minor changes to keep the society stable and functioning if we look at the function of medicine in society from a functionalist point of view we're asking what is the purpose of medicine well when people become ill medicine ensures that they return to a functional state so they can contribute to society being sick is detrimental to the well-being of the society as a whole and when you're sick people can usually tell they tell you to go home and get better the assumption is that you're not supposed to participate in society when you're sick this upsets the stability of the society on a small scale at least the doctor is there to get you better again so you can get back to participating in society on a bigger scale the institution of medicine helps us stabilize the social system in emergency situations like hurricanes or earthquakes where hospitals and medical professionals take over large spaces like school gyms to provide the medical assistance needed by the many people who are injured in day to day life medicine helps to improve the quality of life for the aging population allowing them to contribute to society for longer okay let seems to make sense medicine keeps people healthy and participating in society what about conflict theory how do conflicting groups in a society affect the health of an individual as we know conflict theory is all about the inequality between different groups in the case of medicine this could have quite a significant impact on who has access to medical care meaning both access to hospitals and the ability to be covered by insurance wealthier citizens can pay for the best medical care but people who are scraping by can't afford hospital bills without insurance sometimes people can't afford health insurance when it isn't / their employer or they can't afford the deductibles so they skip the hospital visit and try to heal on their own meaning they're sick for longer or perhaps they never get better the unequal access to valuable resources in society like education housing or well-paying jobs leads to health disparities and limited access to medical care even the power struggle between different interest groups can affect the health of an individual take a look at air pollution regulations factories want more lacks regulations to reduce costs while the people living near those factories want stricter regulations for their own health and well-being asthma rates rise in areas with higher levels of particulate matter in the air stricter air pollution regulations keep the residents healthier in terms of asthma rates at least but put a dent in the income of factories all right - down let's take a look at the theory of social constructionism now in case you forgot social constructionism is the idea that society gives value to everything a diamond was just a rock until society agreed that it should have value in regards to medicine it means that as a society we have attached different meanings to different behaviors and we have different preconceptions of different people in short and means stereotypes we have assumptions about people based on their appearance or actions and we treat people differently because of those assumptions we have preconceptions about different races ages genders even subcultures like metalheads in the past if we saw someone talking to themselves on the street we would assume they were mentally unstable and so we would give them a wide berth today we know people might be talking on a Bluetooth device and so we assume they aren't crazy assumptions can be very dangerous to a medical professional they can affect how you treat your patient or your diagnosis the interaction between the patient and the doctor is influenced by stereotyped assumptions on both sides perhaps the patient feels some symptom is not important enough to mention to the doctor or perhaps the doctor makes a false assumption based on how the patient appears assumptions also affect how the health system views the patient there are people who argue that someone who can't afford healthcare doesn't deserve it because they don't work hard enough you can't declare a characteristic of a person based on their circumstance there are people who don't work who can still afford health care well some people work hard at minimum wage who can't spare the money you also have to be aware of medicalization where patients or doctors will construct an illness out of ordinary behavior a child who can't sit still in class doesn't necessarily have a didi they might just need to get out on the playground and run now that we know to be aware of social based assumptions let's check out how symbolic interactionism applies to medicine remember symbolic interactionism states that individuals give the world meaning by interacting with it one person could consider a bridge a way to cross over a body of water well another person considers it a good shelter from the rain there are many ways we can see how this applies to medicine let's take a look at 2 for 1 we have the doctor-patient relationship the meaning given to simple objects like a lab coat or a stethoscope can affect the interaction it is important for the doctor to realize the meaning the patient's given to the tools of medicine the patient may see the lab coat as a sign of authority giving the doctor the power to diagnose and treat them is the stethoscope a way for the doctor to connect with the patient or is it just a tool that decorates the doctors neck second we have the changes in society recently there has been a medicalization of society where everything from beauty to just being fidgety now has a medical fix standards of beauty have encouraged many people to undergo unnecessary plastic surgery people can choose to have c-sections with giving birth which can affect both the mother and the child later in life normal behaviors are being shown as illnesses one of the most prevalent examples of illness manufacturing is in the case of depression while depression is a serious condition is important in severity have been marginalised it seems like every other person today is depressed when you're sad society views that as their being something wrong with you but in reality sadness is a natural biological function we are supposed to be sad sometimes alright let's take a look at something a bit more specific feminist theory is an offshoot of conflict theory that focuses on the inequalities between men and women in society these inequalities are pretty apparent when looking at the field of medicine though the admittance of women into med school is on the rise it is still a male-dominated field the heads of hospitals and doctors in general still tend to be men there is a disparity in the jobs and salary between male and female doctors men more often occupy higher paid positions women are more often found in family medicine rather than specialized fields this disparity in healthcare positions translates into a disparity in power if you take a look at medicine from the perspective of rational choice and exchange theories you can observe big world view issues of power rational choice and exchange Theory assume that people behave rationally according to their best interests and that you can break down any social institution into the self-interested interactions between individuals so let's see how this applies when you look at the medical system as a whole you can ask what is the purpose of the medical system does it really exist to keep people healthy or is there some other reason perhaps it is a capitalist competition to earn the most money perhaps the structure of our medical system benefits private companies more than it does the sick people it is supposed to be helping people run every aspect of the medical system and those people will make decisions that benefit themselves more than a random sick stranger and perhaps that affects why people go to the doctor or not when they are sick well going to the doctor benefit them most in the long run or will it cost them an arm and a leg some people avoid doctors visits for minor things because they cannot afford the expense but that can allow something that could be easily treated to become a much larger problem the self-interested behavior of people in charge of different aspects of the medical system will trickle down to eventually affect the well-being of the patient well look at that bridging the gap between sociology and medicine seemed a near impossible task when we started but now we have quite a few examples to be honest there are probably so many more ways that sociologies involved in medicine let's take a look outside the specific theories to where you live can affect your health there are urban areas called food deserts where there are no grocery stores within a reasonable distance the only places to eat or fast-food restaurants or perhaps grabbing a snack at a gas station it is nearly impossible to get the nutrition a body needs from only these sources and malnutrition can lead to a host of other problems some neighborhoods have no gyms or playgrounds nowhere for residents to exercise you can use these examples to come up with your own examples of other places where sociology applies to medicine