Looking back on this semester, I realize I have learned so much more than I ever thought I would. I came to this class knowing that the healthcare system was considerably flawed, but this class opened my eyes to the extent at which our healthcare system is flawed. Some politicians (more recently some presidential nominees) talk about fixing this country’s healthcare as if it could be accomplished overnight and suddenly everyone who should be covered, would be covered. However, the healthcare system is so much more intricate than that as its problems stem from a wide variety of sources, starting from the very birth of healthcare. Where most people think that its problems stem from doctors charging a lot for their services or insurance companies being unwilling to cover certain medical treatments or procedures, these people fail to see that it is also the fault of pharmaceutical companies, the way it is so difficult for people to attain a higher socioeconomic class, and so much more that influences the amount and level of care that is accessible and also importantly, affordable to everyone in this country.
It’s hard pill to swallow when one sees exactly how many people are without adequate healthcare or medical insurance in this country, more often than not through no fault of their own. We even went through stories in class of people who worked their entire lives, bought a house, and have retired, only to be pulled out of retirement and lose everything they had because of a medical issue that they have to pay out of pocket for. It’s an even harder pill to swallow when we see how people from other countries thrive under their country’s version of healthcare, other countries having universal healthcare. Politicians in the United States argue that our government cannot afford to provide universal healthcare for everyone in the country. How then, are other countries able to afford universal healthcare for their citizens? In addition, how then does US government have enough money to spend trillions of dollars on wars in the Middle East? Though many of these questions will take more research and taking related classes to answer, SO215 has primed me to begin questioning these aspects of healthcare not just through the length of the course, but for the rest of my life as an active and voting citizen of this country.
This course has been eye-opening for me. The most interesting idea I have learned is the correlation between socioeconomic status and health outcomes. The Whitehall studies in England produced a result I did not expect. Prior to the course I would have expected wealth to correlate with health but I would not have expected race, education or stress to correlate with health as well.
Another topic I found very interesting was the need for the medical profession to focus on care and the quality of patient life as well as curing the affliction. This idea is one that I have seen in the past when dealing with family members in the hospital. However, I was not aware that the quality of life is not always the primary concern of doctors. This realization had a large impact on me.
A final topic was shown to me in the analytical postings, but I wish it was discussed more in class. Mental health infrastructure is a serious problem that has been around for far too long. A large percentage of the population experiences some form of mental health issue, and there is very little infrastructure to support these patients. Moreover, the majority of homeless people and a large portion of the prison population suffer from a mental illness. I feel that, in the context of a course that is teaching students to address societal medical issues, this would have been a great topic to study in depth.
In the article “Over-the Counter Medicines’ Benefits and Dangers” Jane Brody discusses Americans use of OTC drugs and how we go wrong. Last year Americans spent 44 billion dollars on OTC medications so it is safe to say that they are part of every day life. We have all at least glanced at the label on a bottle of Tylenol and somewhere it says “consult your doctor” or “consult your pharmacist”. Brody points out a fact that we probably already knew which is almost no one consults their healthcare providers about taking OTC’s. We have all become self proclaimed experts in taking common medications. Continue reading “Over the Counter, Over the Line”
After learning about the history of health care and a little bit of why the health care system is the way it is today, the title “Social Media For Health Care, Who’s Doing It Right” on Forbes.com immediately grabbed my attention. Social media, while it is such a major part of everyday life today, is a relatively new aspect of society. For the first time companies can reach out to customers in ways that previously would have been impossible. The internet has undeniably changed the way people learn and access information. These days information about healthcare is at everyone’s fingertips. Continue reading “Social Media’s Role in Healthcare”
In this class, we learned various aspects of the sociology of healthcare, but the topic that I found most interesting was about socioeconomic status in the second portion of the course. We learned that socioeconomic status is the biggest factor that influence health outcomes in the United States—even bigger than gender or race. According to the fundamental cause theory, there is an association between socioeconomic status and health disparities. Despite advances in health technology and knowledge, disparities still exist because those in lower socioeconomic status do not have the resources to protect or improve their health. This does not solely mean that the poor have worse health than those well-off; this association is true across all hierarchical gradients. We also learned about the constrained choice theory, which states that although people may know about health conditions and disparities, they are unable to do anything about it because of social constraints, their community, biological factors, and family ties. Continue reading “Smoking & Disparities”
In Managing Emotions in Medical School: Students’ Contacts with the Living and the Dead, Smith and Kleinman analyze the view our culture has on the emotions expressed by medical students and also how important a role those emotions have in the students’ and even the professional’s care. An important point they make that is easy to see first hand with almost any sort of doctor’s visit is that the current view of doctors is that they are desensitized to the illnesses or traumas of their patients. I think that this poses a conundrum in the medical field because this often leads to patients feeling dehumanized and dissatisfied with their care. Continue reading “Managing Emotions in Medical School”
In Managing Emotions in Medical School: Students’ Contacts with the Living and the Dead, Allen C. Smith and Sherryl Kleinman explore the stance our Western culture takes regarding the question of how medical students ought to express emotions and how big of a role these emotions ought to play in the care they offer. I think one point we all have to take away from this reading is that modern culture emphasizes an apparent need to desensitize ourselves in order to provide better medical care but that this carries an immense risk of dehumanizing patients. This seems like a valid and fairly obvious point, in my opinion.
Continue reading “You Got Me Feeling Emotions…”
The paper “Managing Emotions in Medical School” by Smith and Kleinman discusses the desensitization of students to unwanted emotions on an individual basis. Continue reading “Desensitization of Doctors”
In Peter Conrad and Kristin Barker’s article, they explain the concept of social constructionism and say that “the emphasis is on how meanings of phenomena do not necessarily inhere in the phenomena themselves but develop through interaction in a social context.” In other words, the disease itself may have an entirely different meaning than the illness, based on social context, cultural differences, lack of knowledge, and different perceptions. They also claim that a “stigmatized illness can make an illness much more difficult to treat and manage” and then go into the example about HIV/AIDS and how people are less likely to seek help for their condition. Because technology heavily influences social behavior and experiences today, do you think this has anything to do with how we view illnesses and diseases? Technology, especially the Internet, allows information to be public, available, and accessible as well, so is it bad that all this excess information is available since the public is able to interpret it however they want to? Should we be focusing on educating and reducing the stigma in society instead of giving out all this information to the public?
On the exam, I remember a question about the nature of allopathic training in the 19th century.
How generally has medical education evolved over the last couple of centuries?