Role of Social Factors

This textbook demonstrates the breadth of topics included in the sociology of health, illness, and health care. Part I discusses the role that social factors play in fostering illness and in determining which social groups experience which ill- nesses. Chapter 1 offers an introduction to the field, the sociological approach, and the history of disease. Chapter 2 describes the major causes of preventable deaths in the United States, demonstrating how social as well as biological factors affect health and illness. Building on this basis, Chapter 3 describes how age, sex, gender, social class, race, and ethnicity affect the likelihood, nature, and consequences of illness in the United States. Finally, Chapter 4 explores the nature and sources of illness in the poorer countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Part II analyzes the meaning and experience of illness and disability in the United States. Chapter 5 explores the social meanings of illness and social ex- planations for illness as well as the social consequences of defining behaviors and conditions as illnesses. With this as a basis, Chapter 6 first explores the meaning of disability and then offers a sociological overview of the experience of living with chronic pain, chronic illness, or disability, including the experience of seeking care from both medical doctors and alternative health care providers. Finally, Chapter 7 provides a parallel assessment of mental illness.

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Part III moves the analysis to the macro level. Chapter 8 describes the U.S. health care system, the battles surrounding the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the continuing crises in health care costs and accessibil- ity. Chapter 9 offers some basic measures for evaluating health care systems and then uses these measures to evaluate the systems found in Canada, Great Britain, Germany, the People’s Republic of China, Mexico, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Finally, Chapter 10 examines four common health care settings— hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, and family homes—and provides a social analysis of the technologies used in those settings.