This assignment is based on the keywords from the course. The keywords are on the textbook, The book is “The sociology of health, illness and healthcare”
Module 1a: Biological reductionism
Biological reductionism is essentially based on the assumption that illness is an objective biological condition that is located within the body. This assumption of the medical model approach is designed to train physicians to mainly keep their focus on the body of the patients, rather than the social environment for the illness. Physicians tend to rely on this assumption of biological reductionism to provide patients with an explanation for their illness. The viewpoint of social constructionism is in opposition to biological reductionism, which recognizes illness through social interactions rather than considering the cause of illness as a biological condition. Whereas, biological reductionism would view arthritis as a biological condition that is located within the body; social constructionism would consider it being caused by physical activities the patient has been exposed to. The psychopharmacological revolution that began in the mid-1950s, was based on the concept that mental illness was a biological condition of the brain that could be treated with medication. This concept is very similar to biological reductionism, as they both believe that the illness of the patients is a biological condition. From personal experience, I witnessed my brother being diagnosed with diabetes, which is interrelated with biological reductionism. Although diabetes has been a biological condition in my family, the doctors had already made the assumption of it being a biological condition. There are many causes of diabetes and it is genetically caused is a prominent one. Therefore, as my brother was diagnosed with diabetes, the physicians had utilized biological reductionism to further explain the cause of this illness.
Module 1b: The health belief model
The health belief model is the belief that individuals will follow medical advice when they believe that they are vulnerable to a particular health problem, which could be a serious one. This model also generates the belief that compliance with medical advice will reduce their risk of being diagnosed with a health problem. This model is significantly designed to give prominence to the agency, which is the concept of an individual’s free will to make certain choices for themselves. Individuals that receive medical advice from physicians or doctors tend to take them very seriously, as they may fear being inclined to the risk of a particular health problem. As we are currently experiencing a pandemic caused by COVID-19, there were many health officials that implemented medical advice for the compliance of the larger society; in order to decrease and eliminate the spread of this infectious disease. During a pandemic, the health belief model is perceived for its preeminent contribution to decreasing health risks for society. However, as the spread of COVID-19 began a pandemic and put the entire state on lockdown; there were some medical advice health officials had given to the public. The medical advice was social distancing, keeping face masks and gloves on when in a public place, and staying home unless it is for essential reasons. The health belief model has played a significant role, while we experienced this pandemic for the past couple of months.
Technological imperative is the concept that technology is beneficial for society and it is utilized by physicians for the purpose of treating an individual for their health problem. Technological imperatives can influence doctors to use technology while preparing diagnostic tests or treatment. Technology has been overtly functional, as it improves the health of individuals in many different ways. Technology is utilized for many different tests, which help indicate the health problems that individuals may be facing. The social construction of technology is based on the discussion of which technology is to be followed and which technology is implemented. The various social groups tend to incorporate certain technologies that they believe are for the benefit of society. An example of a technological imperative is the prostate-specific antigen test, which is a blood test used for the purpose of screening prostate cancer. In this case, technological imperatives are increasingly beneficial, as they help detect serious health problems, as well as those that are not considered serious. Technological imperatives can also assist scientists and doctors to produce a vaccination for the whole society, in order to protect them from a particular disease. As we are currently facing a pandemic caused by COVID-19, technological imperatives would be considered in high demand; since there is no vaccination publicized yet, it has become difficult to protect people from being infected. However, scientists continue to take technological imperatives in generating a vaccine for this infectious virus.
The notion of the socioeconomic gradient in health is regarding the relationship between socioeconomic status and health. It is believed that an improvement in an individual’s socioeconomic status can help enhance their health. Studies across several countries including Canada indicate that the risk for mortality and morbidity increases if an individual’s socioeconomic position decreases. The two factors of socioeconomic status and health correlate with each other, as the different social classes are put into a hierarchy; and then depict which social class is more vulnerable to health risks. The Black Report found that individuals with low income, semi-literate and in the informal sector faced bigger health risks compared to those with good socioeconomic standings. The gradient pattern is also influenced by race/ethnicity composition in a country. Consequently, those with higher social status have lower rates of mortality and morbidity than those with lower status in society. For example, African-Americans have a high mortality and morbidity rates than other races/ethnicity. Healthcare can be very costly in some states, and it can become difficult for individuals with low-income. However, individuals with better income, occupation and education access good insurance cover. As opposed to unskilled labourers, they see a specialist who can identify and treat a health problem before it worsens. Presently, as we are grappling with COVID-19, low-income earners have been worse hit. The majority have lost their jobs meaning that they cannot afford quality healthcare. In contrast, individuals with good socioeconomic standings can afford to install hospital beds with ventilators in their private homes.
Medicalization refers to the process through which health conditions and behaviours are cited as medical problems thus desiring medical solutions. Medicalization simply explores or broadens various categories of illness. The field of medicine like any other study has benefited from scientific and technological advancements. Scholars and researchers nowadays conduct studies with military precision to uncover the underlying causes of medical problems. For instance, infertility had been perceived as a natural problem. Many cultures even believed that it was a form of punishment from the gods. However, the advent of technology and modern medicine has reengineered a condition that was believed to be permanent. Infertility experts have devised drugs that can help an infertile individual. Another example is obesity. Modern medicine has successfully medicalized overweight individuals through health products, weight loss medications, and surgeries. Also, doctors have broadened the definition of Alzheimer’s to include the elderly as well as middle-aged patients. Medicalization is a controversial topic and dissenters have argued in favor of demedicalization. Some of the conditions that are being treated nowadays are a natural and normal way of life. For example, balding is a normal phenomenon where an individual loses hair gradually. However, proponents of medicalization have devised a medical solution called hair implant or replacement. On a brighter note, medicalization has cut across the criminal justice system and helped vulnerable members of society. Modern science has been able to prove that homosexuality is a scientific and medical problem. Thus, the LGBTI community enjoy the protection of the law unlike in the 1960s when they were being jailed.
Transhumanism is a proposition that science and technology should be used to upgrade human mental and physical features. According to transhumanists, science and technology should be deployed for the betterment of humans. An example of a transhumanist view is that science and technology should be used to create a posthuman world. The idea is to reinforce human organs that are expected to deteriorate. For instance, aging directly affects the ability of the eyes to see clearly. The main aim of transhumanism is to solve human illness and the preservative of life. In response, transhumanists believe that science and technology should be used to equip humans with X-ray vision. The concept of transhumanism is based on two arguments. First, the desirability of humans to improve their conditions. This means that science and technology should be used to eliminate aging and to enhance human intellectual, physical and psychological faculties. Second, humans must exercise caution in developing technologies aimed at improving life without necessarily endangering human existence. An example of transhumanism is the development of robotics using artificial intelligence. In military and law enforcement agencies, robots with artificial intelligence have been developed to mimic human movements and have been used to disarm bombs. Thus, rather than using real human technology and science has been designed to perform dangerous tasks. In any case, the robots are usually under the control of humans and they cannot operate without human direction. Additionally, transhumanists have developed a technology called cryonics used for the preservation of the human body especially the brain in anticipation of future revival. Another common example is virtual reality.
Sociology is normally concerned with human interactions in society. This means that people must have a set of standards or acceptable behavior to live or exist in such a community. Acceptable and proper conduct is simply referred to as the norm. Likewise in medicine, there are acceptable rules of behaviors that all health practitioners must conform to or subscribe to. They are called medical norms. Therefore, medical norms set the bare minimum or irreducible minimums expected from a health professional. For example, health workers are expected to conduct their affairs in a professional manner. They ought to observe the general rule of cleanness such as sanitizing or wearing gloves while attending to a patient. Similarly, doctors are expected to give an accurate diagnosis and refer patients to a specialist in cases where they do not possess the requisite expertise. Most importantly health workers must conduct themselves with utmost decorum and usually higher standards than those expected from ordinary citizens. Medical norms are enforced through regulation. The regulatory body usually establishes a code of conduct and ethics expected of health workers in the performance of their duties. A health worker who breaches the set norms commits professional misconduct and can be held to account. An example of a medical norm is the belief that a patient’s medical record is confidential. Doctors must get clear consent before sharing a patient’s medical history unless it is to treat the patient. Thus, health workers are expected to exhibit the highest professional standards. In essence, regulation helps in affirming or enforcing medical norms.
The term total institution refers to a residence or structure where a large number of people are situated and prevented from interacting with the rest of the world. In practice, mental hospitals or mental health facilities are good examples of total institutions. Moreover, total institutions differ. Some host mentally-ill patients while others are used to rehabilitate mentally-ill suspects. According to Goffman, total institutions result in mortification and depersonalization. The earlier refers to a situation in which a person’s self-image is crushed and replaced by a personality adapted to institutional life while the latter refers to a situation where a person feels that he is no longer human. The problem with total institutions is that it reduces an image of a person. For example, a parent or a professor will no longer be viewed the same but rather as a patient. Sadly, most patients lose the right to choose what to wear or eat. They are kept under heavy medicines to keep them in control. Total institutions reduce mature people to toddlers. The worst result is that most of the treated patients are unable to fit into society once they have been discharged. As a consequence, mental hospitals have been perceived as the worst places to treatment mentally-ill patients. There have been calls for the deinstitutionalization of mental health facilities. From personal experience, I had an aunt who was committed to a mental institution. Upon her release, she could reintegrate into the family. We had to take her into a private facility. She later passed on due to depression.
Strohschein, L & Weitz, R. (2013). The Sociology of Health, Illness, and Health Care in Canada. Nelson.