Unit 7, P2 & M1
There are different approaches to health and ill health in sociology, and these include Functionalism, Marxism, Feminism and Interactionism.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1974 defines positive health as a state of complete physical mental, social, spiritual and well-being not merely the absence of disease. The holistic approach is based on addressing the individual’s physical, social, emotional and spiritual health needs.
The functionalist approach to health and ill health
In the functionalist model, Parsons argued that illness is a form of deviance that disturbs the social function of a society; within the functionalist approach to health it studies the relationship between a sick individual and the society as a whole. Parsons stated that for the society to function efficiently the members of the society must be free from illness and must be of well health. Functionalists argued that stability and cooperation are very crucial for a society to function efficiently; functionalists explain that through the process of socialisation we learn our society’s general norms, values and social roles. An example of this is, saying “thank you or please” these are some of the values that are treasured within societies, and an example of a social role would be a grandmother fulfilling the role as a grandmother. For the grandmother to fulfil her role, the individual has to look after the grandchildren so that the parents of the children can go work, therefore allowing them to fulfil their role within the society as a doctor, nurse or teacher.
Parsons, explain that illness prevents a person from fulfilling their role within the society, and this is seen as a form of deviance as mentioned at the beginning. An individual who is sick will be regulated by a mechanism of social control, for example a doctor. The doctor is the one who affirms that the individual’s health status has changed from being healthy to sick. By having this sick status, this allows the individual to take time of work, therefore relieving the individual of his/her social role and ascribing him/her a sick role, the individual will maintain the sick role until he/she is well to perform their social role in the society. Parson believed that individuals who are sick break the structure of society because they are not viewed as positive contributors. In addition sick people are allowed to refrain from participating in events, work, social activities, and other aspects of society because of their illness. This shows us that functionalists view health as a requirement of a functional society; this is because if a certain amount of people are ill society cannot function.
The Marxist approach to health and ill health
Marxist theory is concerned with the way in which the dominant economic structure of society determines inequality and power, as well as shaping the relations upon which the major social institutions are built. https://www.palgrave.com/bilton/pdfs/0333_945719_14_cha13.pdf: last accessed 31 Mar. 14. This suggests that the capitalist are the dominants of society therefore, this causes inequality within society. As a result within health and social care, the capitalist manufacture unhealthy cheap foods, which individuals from lower classes are more likely to consume due to lack of education and money. Moreover, the individuals are more likely to develop health problems such as diabetes or heart disease as well as obesity or malnourishment. If the individuals become ill, the individuals will require going to the hospital which is also run by the capitalist. This shows us how health inequalities are among the capitalist and the worker; in addition it’s also showing us how the workers are oppressed by the ruling class. Furthermore, health and social care professionals such as doctors, they are seen as working agents. This is because these individuals make sure that the proletariat are fit to go back into society to work.