The Social Context of Health

The Social Context of Health

The Social Context of Health

The Social Context of Health

Synopsis

• In what way is health related to our sense of self-identity?
• How do we make decisions about our health in an age of uncertainty?
• Which developments in medical knowledge and the delivery of care change our ideas about health?

The central theme running through this book is the essentially 'social' nature of health. This embraces the way medical knowledge emerged out of a specific set of historical and intellectual circumstances, and the shaping of the health professions by the cultural and political milieu of the nineteenth century. Like non-expert knowledge, the development and application of expert knowledge in health is embedded in social processes. In this accessible text the complex relationships between inequality, race, gender and other social divisions are examined and related to changes in health care. Problems central to the delivery of health care are highlighted and linked to challenges to established health-care professions and systems. Michael Hardey shows the way in which health has become part of our identity, and relates this to the increasing range of health advice and the constant choices available in terms of our health and lifestyles.

Excerpt

Health is deeply embedded in the social world. It is also much abused as a concept. People are said to have a healthy attitude to life, some foods are supposedly good for your health and parents worry whether their child has a healthy interest in sex. International trade may be healthy, a business may make a healthy profit and a political party may have a healthy majority in parliament. the dark side of health is represented by the unhealthy and associated with the negative if not the immoral. Such vague and various usage of health comes more sharply into focus when we feel the need to visit a doctor. We anticipate a consultation that involves a process of diagnosis, treatment and cure. This reflects a faith in the ability of medicine to resolve problems that range from a cough to a feeling that a relationship may not be working. Health and its binary opposite therefore wields considerable ideological power which in part stems from its association with the apparent certainties of medicine. However, social scientists have shown how medical knowledge is itself social and reflects the culture and politics of its time. This does not mean that sociologists would contest, for example, that the heart pumps blood around the body, but they would seek to understand why, when and how this particular piece of knowledge became accepted as such. Furthermore, they are interested in how and to whom this knowledge is applied. While medicine and psychology are essentially based on the individual, sociology takes a more collective approach which blurs into some areas of social psychology, history, philosophy and other disciplines. This blurring of academic disciplines and uncertainty about boundaries is one of the challenges of what has been variously called late or high modernity, post-industrial or postmodern societies. Such labels are associated with particular writers or theoretical positions. However, while recognizing the significance of such distinctions where appropriate, they are largely used in this book in a more general sense. Given the breadth of work on health and illness, there are inevitably some aspects that receive . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.