MCAT Content / Social Institutions / Health And Medicine

Health and Medicine

Topic: Social Institutions

The social institution of medicine fulfills the need for healthcare in an organized manner.

Beliefs about disease and approaches to healing vary between societies and cultures. In Western societies, science-based medicine (the biomedical approach) is more prevalent than holistic medicine, which focuses on the wellness of a whole person – body, mind, and spirit.

Delivery of health care refers to the mechanisms by which a society provides health care to individuals. Health care can be delivered at several levels. Personal health care services for individuals are available at clinics, neighborhood centers, offices, or homes. On a larger scale, public health services are required to maintain a healthy environment to prevent disease spread and other health conditions in the population.

Medicalization is the effort to describe a type of behavior as a symptom of an underlying illness that should be treated by a doctor. For example, there is an increasing effort to medicalize addiction and treat it as a disease of the brain. Medicalization has also been criticized as an attempt on the part of the powerful to control behaviors that are inconsistent with societal demands.

Individuals who are diagnosed with illnesses may assume the sick role, exhibiting the expected behaviors for an ill person. The nature of the sick role varies according to culture and socioeconomic status, but there are some common features. It is understood that serious illness exempts individuals from normal responsibilities, such as going to work or school. It is also expected that the ill person wants to be healed and will seek medical help of his or her own accord. While the sick role refers to outward behaviors, the term illness experience describes how an individual adjusts to interruptions to their health. “Illness” refers to the definition of health problems in popular consciousness, while “diseases” refers to an expert or medical definition of wellness. These terms create the possibility that a person can be ill without having a disease, or can have a disease without being ill. Two people with the same disease can have markedly different illness experiences.

Social Epidemiology is the study of how social factors, like racial/ethnic minority status or SES,  affect health. It is is defined as “the branch of epidemiology that studies the social distribution and social determinants of health”; or in other words, “both specific features of, and pathways by which, societal conditions affect health”. Social epidemiology may focus on individual-level measures, or on emergent social properties that have no correlation at the individual level. The life course approach in social epidemiology (not to be confused with the life course theory of aging!) refers to the idea that experiences earlier in life may affect health outcomes later in life – for example, childhood trauma predict risk for certain diseases in adulthood.


Practice Questions

 

Khan Academy

 

MCAT Official Prep (AAMC)

Online Flashcards Sociology Question 1

Online Flashcards Sociology Question 10

Online Flashcards Sociology Question 18

Section Bank P/S Section Passage 5 Question 35

Section Bank P/S Section Passage 6 Question 42

Sample Test P/S Section Question 15

Practice Exam 3 P/S Section Question 28

Practice Exam 4 P/S Section Passage 9 Question 49


Key Points

• The social institution of medicine fulfills the need for healthcare in an organized manner.

• The delivery of healthcare can occur at several levels. Personal health care services for individuals are available at clinics, neighborhood centers, offices, or homes. Public health services are required to maintain a healthy environment in order to prevent disease spread and other health conditions in the population.

• Medicalization is the effort to describe a type of behavior as a symptom of an underlying illness that should be treated by a doctor.

• Individuals who are diagnosed with illnesses often assume the sick role. The nature of the sick role varies according to culture and socioeconomic status. Still, there are some common features like being exempt from normal responsibilities and the expectation that the ill person wants to be healed and will seek medical help of his or her own accord.

• Illness experience describes how an individual adjusts to interruptions to their health.

• Social epidemiology is defined as “the branch of epidemiology that studies the social distribution and social determinants of health”; or in other words, “both specific features of, and pathways by which, societal conditions affect health”.

• Social epidemiologists generally use social concepts in order to explain patterns of health in the population.


Key Terms

Delivery of health care: refers to the mechanisms by which a society provides health care to individuals

Medicalization: the effort to describe a type of behavior as a symptom of an underlying illness that should be treated by a doctor

Sick role: when individuals diagnosed with illnesses exhibit the expected behaviors for an ill person.

Illness experience: how an individual adjusts to interruptions to their health

Illness: refers to the definition of health problems in popular consciousness

Disease: refers to an expert or medical definition of wellness

Social epidemiology: the branch of epidemiology that studies the social distribution and social determinants of health

Life course theory: a research perspective in social epidemiology in which earlier life experiences are thought to affect later health outcomes



Billing Information
We had trouble validating your card. It's possible your card provider is preventing us from charging the card. Please contact your card provider or customer support.
{{ cardForm.errors.get('number') }}
{{ registerForm.errors.get('zip') }}
{{ registerForm.errors.get('coupon') }}
Tax: {{ taxAmount(selectedPlan) | currency spark.currencySymbol }}

Total Price Including Tax: {{ priceWithTax(selectedPlan) | currency spark.currencySymbol }} / {{ selectedPlan.interval | capitalize }}