SOC. 4th Edition. Benokraitis. Cengage Learning, 2014. ISBN: 9781133592129
Chapter 14 Health and Medicine
Chapter 15 Population, Urbanization and the Environment
Welcome to week six of SOC 250, Introduction to Sociology.
The content for the week focuses on health and medicine. Health is the state of physical, mental and social well-being. We can usually determine physical health by using objective measures like weight and blood pressure. Mental and social well-being are more difficult to gauge because they rely on subjective definitions that change over time. In addition, we review population change and composition structure as well as the population dynamics of the United States. We also come to understand the urbanization issues in the U.S. and globally as well as the environmental issues we face as a country.
Global Health and Illness
Health varies among and across societies, but all people experience disease, a disorder that impairs a person's normal physical and/or mental condition. Social epidemiology examines how societal factors affect the distribution of disease within a population. Why, for example, do people live much longer in some countries than in others? In answering this and other questions, epidemiologists look at two factors. One is incidence, the number of new cases of a health problem that occur in a given population during a given time period (e.g., in 2012 , there were 1.7 million new diabetes cases among Americans aged 20 or older). The other measure is prevalence, the total number of cases (extent) of an illness or health problem within a population or at a particular point in time (e.g., in 2012, 12 percent of the U.S. population aged 20 or older had diabetes). Epidemiological studies show large health differences across countries. The 75 high-income countries make up only 13 percent of the world's population, but have the greatest access to clean water, sanitation, food, and health services. In contrast, chronic malnutrition is the most common killer of children under 5 years old in lower-income countries. More than a third of the world's population lacks basic sanitation, almost half are at risk of dying of malaria, and 44 percent of people in low- and lower-middle-income countries can't afford medicine to treat infections and diseases.
Health and Illness in the United States
Why do Americans, compared with their peers in other high-income countries, have a health disadvantage that includes high disability rates? Compared with other industrialized nations, non-medical social determinants contribute to large health disparities in the United States. A disability is any physical or mental impairment, temporary or permanent, that limits a person's ability to perform a basic life activity. Almost 30 percent of Americans aged 18 and over have a disability. No single variable explains well-being. Genes affect all of us, but environmental, demographic, and lifestyle factors...all of which are interrelated...have a significant impact on health and illness. Religion, family size, marital status, urban-rural residence, and other variables affect health. Four of the most important demographic factors, however, are age, sex, social class, and race and ethnicity. Our lifestyle choices can improve or impair our health. The top three preventable lifestyle health hazards, in order of priority, are smoking, obesity, and substance abuse. Sexually transmitted diseases also cause infections and illness.
Health Care: United States and Global
Health care encompasses a number of components. One of the most important is medicine, a system of individuals, organizations, and institutions that provide scientific diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of illness, injury, and other health impairments. Almost 66 percent of Americans have health coverage through private insurance, primarily employer-based programs that cover most of the costs for workers and their family members, but also through private insurance not provided by employers. Some 25 percent of Americans have government health insurance funded by taxpayers; others have no insurance. Medicare pays most of the medical costs of Americans age 65 and over, regardless of income. The United States spends more on health care than any other nation in the world...more, in fact, than the next 10 highest-spending developed countries combined. U.S. health care costs have risen steadily...per person, nationally, and as a percentage of the gross domestic product and it is not sustainable. We spend more on health care than 34 other high-income countries, but rank last among the top 11 according to criteria that include quality of care, access to care, efficiency, and health outcomes.
Sociological Perspectives on Health and Medicine
Sociologists focus on different aspects of health, health care, and medicine. Good health and medicine are critical for a society's survival and stability. Thus, countries try to develop a medical care system that, ideally, benefits the entire population regardless of age, sex, race, ethnicity, social class, or other characteristics. Health care is the nation's largest employer. Demand for health services will rise as Obamacare expands insurance and Americans grow older, fatter, and sicker. Our huge health care spending threatens funding for other public programs, including education and transportation, but it should be pointed out that the trillions spent on health care have generated millions of jobs at hospitals, drug companies, insurance companies, nursing homes, and information-technology firms.
Population growth was one of the most significant changes of the twentieth century. Since 1900, the world’s population has more than tripled in size. Even if most of the births are in other countries, population growth affects all Americans---now and in the future. Information about population growth comes from demography, the scientific study of human populations. Demographers analyze populations in terms of size, composition, distribution, and why they change. A population is a group of people who share a geographic territory. A population can inhabit a territory as small as a town or as vast as the planet, depending on the researcher’s focus. When demographers examine population changes, they look at the interplay among three key factors: how many people are born (fertility), how many die (mortality), and how many move from one area to another (migration).
Fertility: Adding New People: The study of population changes begins with fertility, the number of babies born during a specified period in a particular society. There are several ways to measure fertility, but one of the most general and commonly used is the crude birth rate, also known as the birth rate, the number of live births for every 1,000 people in a population in a given year. “Crude” implies that the rate is an imprecise measure of a society’s childbearing pattern because it is based on the total population rather than more specific measures such as a woman’s age or marital status. However, the crude birth rate allows comparisons for a given year across populations or countries.
Mortality: Subtracting People: The second factor in population change is mortality, the number of deaths during a specified period in a population. Demographers typically measure mortality by the crude death rate (also called the death rate), which is the number of deaths per 1,000 people in a population in a given year. A death rate isn’t necessarily the best measure of a population’s health, however. Death rates are high in developed countries---even though these nations have better medical services, better nutrition, and healthier environments than most developing countries---because industrialized nations also have large proportions of people who are 65 and older.
Migration: Adding and Subtracting People: The third demographic factor in understanding population change is migration, the movement of people into or out of a specific geographic area. Migration is the product of both push and pull factors. Push factors encourage or force people to leave a residence. These factors include war, political or religious persecution, unemployment, high crime rates, and natural disasters. Pull factors attract people to a new location. Some of these factors include religious freedom, better schools, lower crime rates, and, especially economic opportunities.
There are numerous examples of environmental problems facing the world as every person on the planet is part of the ecosystem, an area in which all forms of life live in relation to one another and a shared physical environment. This means that plants, animals, and humans depend on each other for survival. Because the ecosystem is interconnected worldwide, what happens in one country affects others. We need to look closely at clean water and air pollution as these two are related environmental problems that are threatening the ecosystem in the United States and globally.
Unfortunately, access to good health is distributed unequally in our society and many others. Health varies among individuals and societies, but all people experience disease, an alteration of the normal physical and/or mental structures of the body or mind. When people feel sick, most seek health care, any activity that improves a person's well-being. A vital part of health care is medicine, a system of individuals, organizations, and institutions that provide scientific diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of illness, injury and other health impairments. Population growth was one of the most significant changes of the twentieth century. Since 1900, the world’s population has more than tripled in size. Information about population growth comes from demography, the scientific study of human populations. When demographers examine population changes, they look at the interplay among three key factors: how many people are born (fertility), how many die (mortality), and how many move from one area to another (migration). Urbanization is growing as the average person, in the United States and worldwide, is more likely to live in a city than a rural area, and this trend is rising. Environmental issues concerning clean water and air pollution are growing problems worldwide.
View the following video to review a simple explanation of various aspects of Health and Medicine. Then view a short video about Population, Urbanization, and the Environment.
Aspects of Health and Medicine
Population, Urbanization, and the Environment
SOC. 4th Edition. Benokraitis. Cengage Learning, 2014. ISBN: 9781133592129
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