Social determinants of health (as opposed to biological determinants of health) are social and economic factors that shape whether a person (or a population) gets sick or stays healthy. These social factors consists of complex, integrated, and overlapping social structures and economic systems that shape health inequalities evident in our local, national, and global communities. From a sociological perspective, social determinants of health must take into account historical, cultural, structural, and critical factors to thoroughly understand why health disparities exists based on intersectional inequalities such as race, social class, and gender. Untangling this complexity in necessary in order to inform the types of upstream, primary, or structural interventions that are needed to address health inequalities.
Our nation is experiencing a national paradigm shift. The focus has been on medical care, spending about 80% of our health care dollars on 20% of the population, and it isn’t working. However, we are moving in a positive direction as we shift to a proactive, health care system from a reactive, medical system.
This course will introduce the sociology of medicine and health (also known as medical sociology or sociology of health and illness), which is a broad field examining the social production of health, wellness, illness and mortality. This sub-discipline of sociology starts from the assumption that we cannot understand the topics of health and illness simply by looking at biological phenomena and medical knowledge.