The Sociology of Health, Healing, and Illness / Edition 6

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Designed to reflect important changes in health care and significant advancements in medical sociology, this reader-friendly book provides a readable, interesting, and in-depth overview of the field. It offers solid coverage of traditional topics with a keen focus on the current issues and public policy debates affecting this dynamic area of study. The volume offers perspectives on the sociology of health, healing, and illness, the influence of the social environment on health and illness, health and illness behavior, health care practitioners and their relationships with patients and a look at the social implications of health care technology and comparative health care systems. For individuals looking for an appreciation for how the sociological perspective and social theory contribute to health, healing and illness.
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Editorial Reviews

Presenting an overview of the field of medical sociology, this text aims to include new perspectives and research findings; cover gender, race, and class issues as they relate to health, healing, and illness; and provide insight into significant social policy questions. Pedagogical features include chapter summaries, list of terms, discussion cases, and new end-of-chapter Internet resource information. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From The Critics
This medical sociology textbook demonstrates the influence of cultural, social-structural, and institutional forces on health, healing, and illness. Weiss (Roanoke College) and Lonnquist (Mary Baldwin College) examine health- and illness-related behaviors, the health care system, and health care practitioners. The fourth edition updates the status of social policy issues. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780132448352
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall
  • Publication date: 2/27/2008
  • Series: MySearchLab Series 15% off Series
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 6
  • Pages: 404
  • Product dimensions: 6.95 (w) x 9.15 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Gregory L. Weiss is Professor of Sociology at Roanoke College where he teaches courses on medical sociology, ethics and medicine, Native Americans, and research methods. He has led student study tours to Great Britain, Luxembourg, Australia, and to the Navajo and Hopi reservations. Dr. Weiss is author or co-author of three books and more than three dozen journal articles. He works with a variety of local community organizations including a free health clinic and the SPCA. Dr. Weiss has received teaching awards from Roanoke College, the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia, the ASA Section on Teaching and Learning, and the Southern Sociological Society.
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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 A brief introduction to the sociology of health, healing, and illness 1
Ch. 2 The development of scientific medicine 12
Ch. 3 Social epidemiology 34
Ch. 4 Society, disease, and illness 58
Ch. 5 Social stress 85
Ch. 6 Health behavior 107
Ch. 7 Experiencing illness and disability 126
Ch. 8 Physicians and the profession of medicine 150
Ch. 9 Medical education and the socialization of physicians 175
Ch. 10 Nurses, mid-level health care practitioners, and allied health workers 196
Ch. 11 Complementary and alternative medicine 219
Ch. 12 The physician-patient relationship : background and models 245
Ch. 13 Professional and ethical obligations of physicians in the physician-patient relationship 270
Ch. 14 The health care system of the United States 289
Ch. 15 Health care delivery 314
Ch. 16 The social implications of advanced health care technology 336
Ch. 17 Comparative health care systems 363
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We are living through a time of dynamic changes regarding disease and illness, health- and illness related behaviors, the health care professions, and the health care systems in the United States and other countries. The fourth edition of this text has been written to update our description and analysis of these dynamic processes and the work of medical sociologists that help us to understand them.

In preparing this fourth edition we have sought to retain and strengthen the emphases and features of the earlier editions; to thoroughly update patterns, trends, and statistics; and to present new material that reflects important changes in health care in society and important advancements in medical sociology.


This edition of the text maintains the same five emphases as the earlier editions. First, we provide broad coverage of the traditional subject matter of medical sociology and include both new perspectives and new research findings on this material. The core areas of medical sociology (the influence of the social environment on health and illness, health and illness behavior, health care practitioners and their relationships to patients, and the health care system) all receive significant attention within the text. Naturally, statistics throughout the text have been updated to provide timely analysis of patterns and trends. Recent research findings and thought have been incorporated in every chapter. Attention devoted to relatively new areas in the field has not reduced coverage of traditional areas such as social stress, illness behavior, and the physician-patient relationship.

Second, we have continued toemphasize emerging areas of analysis in medical sociology and recent work within the field. Recent health care reform efforts in both the public and private domains continue to have dramatic effects on almost every aspect of health care. We describe these effects on the profession of medicine (Chapter 8); medical education (Chapter 9); the status of nurses, mid-level health care practitioners, and alternative healers (Chapters 10 and 11); the physician-patient relationship (Chapter 12); the way that we pay for care (Chapter 14); and the sites at which we receive health care (Chapter 15).

We also continue to incorporate key medical ethics issues throughout the text. These issues represent some of the most important health related debates occurring in the United States today, and many medical sociologists have acknowledged the importance of understanding these policy debates and setting them within a sociological context. We have attempted to provide balanced and comprehensive coverage of several of these issues (especially in Chapters 13 and 16 and in the Discussion Questions and Cases at the ends of chapters).

This fourth edition also provides extended analysis of a wide range of topics including:

  • Expanded focus on global perspective. Material on both developing and industrialized countries has been added to the text in several chapters. In addition, each chapter includes a new feature, "In Comparative Focus," that offers an informative comparison between the United States and one or more other countries on a selected topic. For example, infant mortality in developing countries (with a focus on Pakistan) is examined in Chapter 3; the provision of prenatal care in Western Europe is examined in Chapter 4; the status of female physicians in Mexico is examined in Chapter 8; the extent of truth-telling in the physician-patient relationship in Japan is examined in Chapter 13; and the exportation of managed care to Latin America is examined in Chapter 15.
  • Extended coverage of health issues of children and adolescents.
  • A reworking (and retitling) of Chapter 4 to extend coverage on experiencing chronic illness and disability.
  • Extended coverage of the effects of the Human Genome Project.
  • Added specificity to the manner in which macro-level factors affect health behavior.
  • Added coverage of medical errors.
  • Added analysis of declining enrollments in medical schools and of changes in the medical school curriculum.
  • Added coverage of increasing political activism among nurses.
  • Added description of the key elements underlying complementary and alternative medicine.
  • Added coverage of the health care systems in developing countries.

Third, our extensive coverage of gender, race, and class issues as they relate to health, healing, and illness has been maintained. Throughout the textbook, we examine issues in light of race, class, and gender. We want students to constantly be exposed to the important influence of these factors on matters related to health and illness. The chapters on social epidemiology, social stress, health and illness behaviors, the profession of medicine and medical education, and the physician-patient relationship all give special emphasis to these matters.

Fourth, we continue to emphasize key social policy questions. Timely questions and issues addressed in the earlier edition are continued and updated here—for example, the provision of clean needles to people using injectable drugs (Chapter 4), the reconfiguration of traditional responsibilities of hospital nurses (Chapter 10), the social acceptance and legitimation of complementary and alternative healers (Chapter 11), the legal status of medical marijuana (Chapter 11), the influence of managed care on physicians and patients (several chapters), the effects of trends toward consolidation and merger among American hospitals and the pressures placed on the viability of public hospitals (Chapter 15), and the use and possible abuse of advanced health care technologies (Chapter 16).

Fifth, we have attempted to prepare a text that is informative, readable, and interesting. We want readers to become aware of many of the understandings of health, healing, and illness that we have because of medical sociology. We want readers to become intrigued by the provocative issues and debates that exist in medical sociology and in the health care field. We want readers to find this book readable and interesting.

Both of us enjoy structuring our classrooms to enable as much reflection and critical thinking and student participation as possible. We have found that there is simply not time for some of the classroom activities that we most enjoy (e.g., reading and then discussing a provocative paperback, watching a good documentary and critically analyzing it together, or using student panels to introduce issues) if we feel obligated to lecture on all of the material in each chapter. On the other hand, we do want students to become familiar with the important contributions of the field. When we use this book, we do spend some time lecturing on parts of it, adding to certain discussions and presenting some of the material in an alternative manner. But, our students are able to grasp much of the book on their own, enabling us to supplement and to create additional types of learning experiences.

What are the key pedagogical features of this text?

  • Clear organization within chapters and a clear writing style
  • Interesting boxed inserts ( "In the Field") that provide illustrations of key points made in the chapters
  • Interesting boxed inserts ( "In Comparative Focus") that examine a selected health topic or issue in another country or countries
  • Meaningful tables and charts with the most recent data available at the time the book is being written
  • Illustrative photographs, most of which were taken specifically, for use in this book
  • Chapter summaries
  • End-of-chapter "Health on the Internet" references and questions
  • End-of-chapter "Key Concepts and Terms" sections
  • End-of-chapter "Discussion Cases"
  • References conveniently provided at the end of each chapter

Three additional facets of the book are important to us and help to describe its place within the field. First, we consider a strength of the book to be the large number of research studies cited to illustrate key points. We do this to constantly demonstrate to students the empirical basis of sociology, the origin of sociological knowledge, and the fascinating types of research conducted in medical sociology. We hope it inspires students to consider interesting research projects.

We have worked hard to identify theoretically meaningful and methodologically sound studies that contribute important knowledge to our understanding of health, healing, and illness. While making heavy use of research conducted by medical sociologists, we also include appropriate material from the other social sciences, from the government, and from the medical professional literature. We believe that this is helpful in forming the most comprehensive understanding of the topics covered in the book.

A second facet of our book that is important to us is that we provide balanced coverage on key issues. That does not mean that our book lacks critical perspective or analysis. In fact, readers will find no shortage of critical questions being asked. But we do not equate critical analysis vkith one-sided analysis. We believe students learn more when they are exposed to arguments on both sides of issues and are challenged to consider the soundness of reasoning and quality of evidence that are offered.

Finally, we hope that this text reflects a genuine understanding of some very important and complex issues. Both of us have had many opportunities to experience various dimensions of the health care system. Between the two of us, we have been able to apply and extend our medical sociological training through work in a free health clinic, a family planning clinic, in family counseling, in hospital bioethics groups, on the human rights committee of a state psychiatric hospital, on the Navajo reservation, and in voluntary health agencies. While we have not substituted our personal experiences for more general understandings developed through sound theory and research, we believe that our experiences have helped us to develop a better understanding of certain issues and have assisted us in being able to illustrate important concepts and patterns.

Ultimately, our hopes for student-readers remain the same as with the earlier editions—that they gain an appreciation for how the sociological perspective and social theory contribute to an understanding of health, healing, and illness and for the manner in which social research is used to study these processes. In addition we hope that readers perceive some of the many wonderfully exciting issues that are studied by medical sociologists.

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