Sociology of Health & Illness

Medical sociology, one of the largest subfields of sociology, is good preparation for a wide range of careers in health, including medicine, social work, and public health, as well as for the social science portion of the MCAT exam. In order to understand the topics of health and illness we must consider not only biological factors, but also a variety of social, political, economic, and cultural forces. Sociologists of health and illness use sociological perspectives and methods to understand topics such as: social meanings of illness; patterns in the distribution of health and illness; the ways people make sense of, seek help for, and manage their illnesses; the ways doctors, nurses, and patients interact with each other, including the changing nature of health-related professions; the cultural, organizational, and economic functioning of various healthcare institutions; social movements surrounding health, including the ways some deviant behaviors are “medicalized” while others are not; and the sociological effects of public policy on health outcomes. Throughout this course, we will focus on ways that social structures and inequalities with respect to race, gender, sexuality, etc., impact the patterns of health and illness in the