An understanding of the structures and contradictions of the total social system is called for, without which the chances of understanding what health care systems are all about may look like 'a wild goose chase'. It is ultimately this understanding which help create a more humane and equitable health care system for patients and practitioners alike (Twaddle and Hessler 1977).
The Constitution of India, according to the Chapter on the Directive Principles of State Policy aims at the evolution of a Welfare State. The distinguishable characteristics of a Welfare State is the assumption by the Community, acting through the State, of the responsibility for providing the means whereby all its members can reach a minimum standards of health, economic security and civilised living and can share according to their capacity in the social and cultural heritage.
According to Parsons, a Sociologist of renown, health becomes the state of optimum capacity of an individual for the effective performance of the roles and tasks for which he has been socialised. A comprehensive social security programme envisages a combination of measures to enable the active population to maintain its means of subsistence and to preserve and recover its health. It is all the more necessary to appreciate that mitigation of injustice, protection of health, and alleviation of economic anxieties will vouchsafe for a Country's power of defence.
The study of health and illness and of the professionals and other organisations devoted to health care is one the most fasinating fields. Health is an important factor in assessing the quality of a society's life. Though medicine and other health services are deeply dependent upon the biological and physical sciences, health service organisations, including medical profession, are social organisations. By social organisation, it is meant the interdependence of parts. Interdependent parts consist of some or all the following tasks and activities, relationship among roles, values, norms and beliefs.
Social organisation is differently defined:
1) August Comte .... General social agreement.
2) Herbert Spencer .... Inter-relationships (Integration and
differentiation) of the economic, political
and other divisions of society.
3) Emile Durkheim .... In Le Suicide, he refers to it as social
integration and individual regulation through
consensus about morals and values.
4) Charles H.Cooley .... Refers to it as the 'differentiated unity of
mental and social life. According to his
analysis, mind and one's conception of self
are shaped through social interaction and
social organisation is nothing more than the
shared activities, and understanding which
Though the main anchorage of medicine is in the biological sciences, there is an exceedingly important zone of interaction and interpenetration between the healthy and sick person as organism and personality.
The health care system reflects the political and economic organisation of the larger society. High technology, creative waste, mass production, centralised development planning and monopolistic capital forces are features of technologically advanced societies that are clearly mirrored in health care system.
The Sociology of Health is important in the sense that health care is concerned with fundamental issues involving life, death and the quality of life. For students in health professions, there is an important practical reason for gaining an understanding of the Sociology of Health.
With the 'germ theory' losing its ground in the face of now dominant chronic and degenerative diseases, the expansion of epidemiology has led to the insight that most chronic diseases are associated with social structures and behaviours. Social epidemiology is the study of the distribution of disease, impairment, and general health status across a population. In Social Epidemiology , two concepts are commonly employed. Incidence
refers to the number of of new cases of specific disorder, occurring within a given population during a stated period of time, usually a year. Prevalence
refers to the total number of a specific disorder that exists at a given time. When Incidence figures are presented as rates, or as the number of reports per 100,000 persons, they are called as Morbidity
rates. Sociologists are interested in Morbidity
rates, because they reveal that a specific disease occurs more frequently among one segment of population compared with another. The term Mortality
refers to the incidence of death in a given population.
William F.Ogburn analyses that a large proportion of the social problems which mankind face may be viewed in terms of Cultural Lag.