Sociology | Social Problems and Policies (Topic: Medicine in America: Physicians, Patients, & Their Problems
S101 | 3652 | Calvin Odhiambo


The United States has the costliest health care system in the world
yet it is criticized for its failure to cure society's ills such as
cancer, heart disease and AIDS.  When people do get sick, many do not
have the financial means to pay for needed services or they may be
receiving inferior care because of their inability to pay for more
effective but costly treatment.  All of these issues deal with health
and medical care that all of us experience in one form or another.

This course explores basic questions about a wide range of topics
dealing with the providers of care, the recipients of care, and the
larger context of health, illness, and disease.  What is health? What
is illness?  Who is most likely to get ill?  How is race, ethnicity,
and social class related to the experience of illness?  How do people
seek care and what factors lead some to see a doctor soon after
experiencing symptoms while others wait until they must seek
emergency services?  What are "alternative" medical system and who
uses such treatment as acupuncture, chiropractic, and homeopathy. How
do physicians decide who shall live and who shall die?

The course considers two parallel themes as we discuss the provision
of medical treatment and health services: (a) what are the basic
assumptions about the essential societal functions of medical
treatment and health services and (b) what are the basic purposes and
scope of services for the individual.  The importance of clarifying
the basic purposes of health services is highlighted by questions such
as what constitutes "appropriate service use" and "positive" medical
outcomes-is fundamentally shaped by our assumptions about the purposes
or functions of medical treatment in society.  Clarity about these
assumptions is necessary for appropriate service improvement and
advocacy.  The term, "services," implies work performed and the
application of some technology which is "useful" or "beneficial" to
the patient.  However, just what constitutes a "benefit"-i.e., what
the desired goals and outcomes are for the patient-is subject to some
debate.  In the course, we will discuss distinction among several
models that emphasize different goals in the treatment and care of
patients.