Sociology of Healthcare has definitely been one of the more interesting courses I have taken at Boston University. As a senior in Sargent College, I have taken many health and health-related courses before, but I liked how this course had a different spin and perspective to it. I never really understood what sociologists did, but it was eye-opening to see that they discover and question the underlying factors that influence things, such as healthcare in the United States. Personally, I felt that the first lecture lingered with me and laid the foundation of the course for the semester because we learned about the stark difference between sociology in medicine and sociology of medicine. I never thought about the idea that you can question the healthcare system and the science behind it because in society, it is just accept as truth. The fact that sociologists can question and explore the history and factors that created healthcare into what it is today is incredible. I also found this class to be relatively important because healthcare is something we are affected by in daily life, whether we want to or not. Because of the practicality of the information we gained, we know about the Affordable Care Act, healthcare motives and trends, hospital history, different medical professions, the costs behind healthcare, factors that influence different types of people in relation to health coverage, and much more. The topic of socioeconomic factors stuck with me as well because no matter where we are in the social, gender, or race hierarchy, socioeconomic factors will always influence healthcare the most throughout the gradient. Although I do not have plans for medical school, I can take away so many relevant topics from this course as I seek for careers in healthcare administration and policy. Sociology of Healthcare was insightful and this course has been a delight.
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”
As we progress into the second midterm, I think back to the first section and can conclude that the second half was definitely more interesting and insightful than the first. In the first section, the professor went over a lot of fundamental debates and keypoints of healthcare and gave an sociological overview of healthcare in the United States. We discussed many problems with it compared to other countries in the world, and came up with potential solutions that we as health care providers and sociologists can do in the future. In the second half of the course, we were really able to delve into details about what medical professionals face on a day to day basis and see the forces that come into play when doctors see their patients. Continue reading “Process Reflection 2”
In lecture and discussion, we spoke about how socioeconomic status does, in fact, greatly influence health. We analyzed scenarios and watched videos on how the poorer populations in America were more susceptible to a decline in health just by where they lived or the quality of food they ate. Socioeconomic status, and furthermore diseases themselves, are sometimes, but never always, indicative of race, yet we never study why these differences occur. My question is how, as future medical professionals, can we understand and break down the differences in health among races? Will we ever know why certain races have worse health than others? If so, can we ever change that?
In the New York Times article, “Pediatricians Are Asked to Join Fight Against Childhood Hunger,” Catherine Saint Louis commends the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for its new policy that addresses the issue of food insecurity as a major contextual factor that influences U.S population health. She draws attention to how food insecurity has been found to cause many behavioral problems and hospitalizations for developing children. She also states that the lack of proper nutrition for these children contributes to the rising costs of health care. Saint Louis argues that the negative health outcomes in children from food insecurity amongst families is due impart to the medical practice of pediatricians. Saint Louis draws on claims from Dr. Chilton of Children’s HealthWatch that pediatricians do not adequately research childhood hunger; it has also been difficult to get the physician community to focus on the issue of food insecurity and the negative health effects it causes for their patients. The academy now urges pediatricians to screen their patients for food insecurity using a screening method that inquires if in the past year, money for a lasting food supply was a concern the parent(s) had encountered. If it is incorporated into standard routine of the doctor check-up process, this proposed screening method is helpful in that it removes the communication barrier experienced by parents that may be embarrassed to admit food insecurity and to seek help from a medical professional.
As we learned in class, we found out about the Hispanic-Paradox and how Hispanics who come to the US have up to five years that they have better healthcare than the average American or even the wealthy Americans. This is due to their environment outside of the United States being more friendly toward all and less stress overall which increases the general healthcare of anyone there. Would this then apply to anyone else coming to the United States compared to that of an American born individual? If it is the environment affecting the health, couldn’t people from Japan or Germany who were born and raised there, come to America again with better health than the average American. If that is the case, then it really is the problem of the system and the main issues that need to change would be issues regarding the economic barriers and social statuses of people. It is not about just providing healthcare anymore, but it is also about making sure everyone has the same everyday needs as to not get infected by any preventable diseases.
In “Understanding Racial ethnic Disparities in Health” Williams and Sternthal argue that more policies are needed to improve the health of the minority population. The article blames racial discrimination and low-quality living conditions for declining health in vulnerable social groups. While reading the article I realized that a similar event took place in the 20th century when Blue Cross presented itself as the best alternative to national health insurance. This undercut the middle class concern for health access equality. As stated in Rothman’s article at that time it would require empathy for the middle class to push for national health insurance. Are we experiencing a similar situation here? Is it the majority group, native-born Americans, to blame for not pushing for equality in living conditions, access to education, SES, and most importantly health? Could they be more powerful allies in reforming the system?
In “Understanding Racial-ethnic Disparities in Health : Sociological Contributions”, David Williams and Michelle Sternthal explore racial and ethnic inequalities in health in the United States. Personally, I am a proponent of color-blindness, but I question if it is a possibility in America’s future. The section of this publication titled “Racism and Health” opened my eyes to the concrete data and evidence that shows that our nation is still inherently racist, both intentionally and unintentionally. Williams and Sternthal reveal the very real presence of racial segregation that remains in this nation to this day, and this concerns me greatly.
Is institutional and wide-spread color-blindness a possibility in the future here in the United States? What, if anything, can/must be done to bring this change about? Is segregation and racism an unavoidable and everlasting aspect of our cultural fabric now?
In Williams’ and Sternthal’s article, “Understanding Racial-Ethnic Disparities in Health: Sociological Contributions”, they explain that factors such as race, racial discrimination, gender, socioeconomic status, and social structure all have a role in health outcomes in the United States. Although we as a country have come a long way in the fight against racial discrimination, it seems that it is still a pressing issue in today’s society regarding the media, health care, violence, etc. In regards to health care, where doctors take an oath to do no harm and what ever they can to provide care to someone, it is hard for me to agree that health outcomes are because of race alone. Sure, there will be outliers that do discriminate their patients because of race, but generally, I do not think race plays a huge role in health outcomes. I think most health disparities are due to socioeconomic status. Socioeconomic status and race are intertwined and the go hand-in-hand. Thus, I do not think racial discrimination alone accounts for a lot of health disparities but instead I believe that health disparities are due to socioeconomic status and that those people just happen to be apart of a minority racial group. This is the reason why people are seeing health disparities when they look at solely at racial groups.
I would love to hear the opinions of others who think similarly or that that racial discrimination in the health care settings play a major factor in health disparities. Does racism alone actually correlate to health outcomes? Another question I want to ask is that how do these studies access racism and quality of care for someone who can afford to see a doctor among different racial groups. If the argument against my claim holds true and that racial discrimination alone influences health outcomes, then what are the health outcomes of minorities who can afford doctors and are well off? If racial discrimination is a big influence, shouldn’t their outcomes reflect among the general population among their race or is it different?
In the article “Understanding Racial-ethnic Disparities in Health: Sociological Contributions,” Williams and Sternthal explain in detail the many factors that influence health outcomes, such as race and racial discrimination, gender, socioeconomic status, social structure, and migration history. Although all these factors are important, I felt like the article was just listing out all the problems that influence health outcomes and wanted to prove that these problems do in fact exist. However, we already know that these factors influence health, so how should sociologists and medical professionals take what they already know and create practical solutions for our communities today? At the end of the article, they say that policy needs to be changed and that there needs to be more awareness in the public. Are there any other effective solutions that can be created and implemented today? (Maybe create/influence government policies that assist underserved communities, provide health benefits for vulnerable groups, make farmer’s markets and groceries stores more readily available in poorer communities, etc?)