Medical sociology is the sociological analysis of medical organizations and institutions; the production of knowledge and selection of methods, the actions and interactions of healthcare professionals, and the social or cultural (rather than clinical or bodily) effects of medical practice. The field commonly interacts with the sociology of knowledge, science and technology studies, and social epistemology. Medical sociologists are also interested in the qualitative experiences of patients, often working at the boundaries of public health, social work, demography and gerontology to explore phenomena at the intersection of the social and clinical sciences. Health disparities commonly relate to typical categories such as class and race. Objective sociological research findings quickly become a normative and political issue.
Early work in medical sociology was conducted by Lawrence J Henderson whose theoretical interests in the work of Vilfredo Pareto inspired Talcott Parsons interests in sociological systems theory. Parsons is one of the founding fathers of medical sociology, and applied social role theory to interactional relations between sick people and others. Key contributors to medical sociology since the 1950s include Howard S. Becker, Mike Bury, Peter Conrad, Jack Douglas, David Silverman, Phil Strong, Bernice Pescosolido, Carl May, Anne Rogers, Anselm Strauss, Renee Fox, and Joseph W. Schneider.
The field of medical sociology is usually taught as part of a wider sociology, clinical psychology or health studies degree course, or on dedicated Master's degree courses where it is sometimes combined with the study of medical ethics/bioethics. In Britain, sociology was introduced into the medical curriculum following the Goodenough report in 1944: "In medicine, ‘social explanations’ of the aetiology of disease meant for some doctors a redirection of medical thought from the purely clinical and psychological criteria of illness. The introduction of ‘social’ factors into medical explanation was most strongly evidenced in branches of medicine closely related to the community — Social Medicine and, later, General Practice" (Reid 1976).
Role of health professions
The professionalization of medicine has brought on many contemporary transformations. First of all, the medical industry is not only concerned with disease and illness, but health as well. Also, hospitals are not solely responsible for providing health care and research; the entire community is considered to play a role in the modernization of the medical industry. The definition of pain has broadened to include chronic symptoms in addition to acute symptoms. Fourthly, research used to emphasize finding a cure has expanded to investigating preventions of disease. Treatment style has also advanced from being highly dependent on intervention to now using monitoring techniques. Lastly, as professional medicine advances, the role of the client has shifted from patient to person.
- Medical anthropology
- Epidemiological transition
- Health disparities
- Social medicine
- Sociology of health and illness
- Stroke Belt
- Reid, Margaret (1976), "The Development of Medical Sociology in Britain", Discussion Papers in Social Research No 13 (University of Glasgow)
- Bird, Chloe E.; Conrad, Peter; and, Fremont, Allen M. (2000). Handbook of Medical Sociology (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-014456-0. OCLC 42862076.
- Bloom, Samuel William (2002). The Word as Scalpel: A History of Medical Sociology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-507232-7. OCLC 47056386.
- Brown, Phil (2008). Perspectives in Medical Sociology (4th ed.). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press. ISBN 978-1-57766-518-2. OCLC 173976504.
- Cockerham, William C. (2001). The Blackwell Companion to Medical Sociology. Oxford, UK; Malden, MA: Blackwell. ISBN 978-0-631-21703-9. OCLC 44039611.
- Cockerham, William C.; Ritchey, Ferris Joseph (1997). Dictionary of Medical Sociology. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-29269-9. OCLC 35637576.
- Conrad, Peter (2007). The Medicalization of Society: On the Transformation of Human Conditions into Treatable Disorders. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8584-6. OCLC 72774268.
- Helman, Cecil (2007). Culture, Health, and Illness (5th ed.). London, England: Hodder Arnold. ISBN 978-0-340-91450-2. OCLC 74966843.
- Law, Jacky (2006). Big Pharma: Exposing the Global Healthcare Agenda. New York, NY: Carroll & Graf. ISBN 978-0-7867-1783-5. OCLC 64590433.
- Levy, Judith A.; Pescosolido, Bernice A. (2002). Social Networks and Health (1st ed.). Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Boston, MA: JAI. ISBN 978-0-7623-0881-1. OCLC 50494394.
- Mechanic, David (1994). Inescapable Decisions: The Imperatives of Health Reform. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers. ISBN 978-1-56000-121-8. OCLC 28029448.
- Rogers, Anne; Pilgrim, David (2005). A Sociology of Mental Health and Illness (3rd ed.). Maidenhead, England: Open University Press. ISBN 978-0-335-21584-3. OCLC 60320098.
- Scambler, Graham; Higgs, Paul (1998). Modernity, Medicine, and Health: Medical Sociology Towards 2000. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-14938-9. OCLC 37573644.
- Turner, Bryan M. (2004). The New Medical Sociology: Social Forms of Health and Illness. New York, NY: W.W. Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-97505-5. OCLC 54692993.