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Author: Paul Hannan

Recognize the roles of medicine, health, and social epidemiology in society.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain All Images from; Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology-- Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on health. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial. So let's look at health. Now, health and its basic idea is that it's when you're healthy, And it's when you're healthy on three different aspects. It's when you're healthy physically, when you're healthy mentally, and when you're healthy socially.

Now, what happens if you're not healthy? Then you're sick. Then you're ill. So as a society, you can think about illness in two different ways. We have social epidemiology, which is studying how diseases get passed on from people to people and how health is distributed in populations and how various diseases work within populations. That's kind of the study of health and illness.

The other way you can look at health and illness is looking at medicine. And that's the social institution that focuses on how we treat and prevent illness, so how do we get people better and how do we stop them from getting sick in the first place. Now, here in the United States of America, we have what's called a mixed market system of medicine. So when you look at health care, there's a couple different ways it can be structured. Let me start maybe by describing what a free market medicine is.

Free market medicine is when medical services are provided by the market. So the government doesn't step in. They don't make a bunch of regulations. There's not intervention. They're not oversight. They're not funding stuff. It's totally produced by individual businesses and by individuals buying products from businesses in the market system. The total other side of that is a socialized medicine. Now, when you have socialized medicine, the government owns, operates, and controls all medical care.

Now, we right here in America have a mixed market system. So we have parts of the free market and parts of the socialized medicine put together to provide medical service. Now, when we're mixed, there on the spectrum of health care in the current modern world with developed nations, we're actually probably one of the most free market based economies health care systems in the world. Many different place in the world have much more socialized medicine, so much more government controlled, owned, and operated types of health care. So what happens when you're treating people who are sick?

There's really two different ways of treating people who are sick-- allopathic medicine and holistic medicine. So we kind of, in the West, have this basic idea that when you're sick, what we do is we react to that sickness and we treat the individual for their illness or their symptoms of that illness. And we treat the little things separately. So if you have a backache, we might give you some pills or some medicine or give you your surgery to fix your backache. If you have a toothache, we're going to give you things to fix that individual toothache, et cetera.

Holistic medicine is a different approach, and that's really when you're looking at the whole person to help them figure out how to be healthy. And it's much more preventative, so you're trying to make sure that this whole person is healthy. And instead of dealing with an individual back issue, you see them as a whole issue and how that back issue might be connected to some other issue-- or how they're eating unhealthy and that is what's making their back not be as strong. And that's what's making it hurt. So it's really trying to take all these things together.

Again, we here in modern Western society-- we generally don't use as much holistic medicine. That's considered more of an alternative form of medicine. So today's takeaway message-- we looked at medicine, which is a social institution that focuses on treating and preventing illness. Health is just a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. Social epidemiology is the study of diseases and how those change and are distributed, and how health works within populations.

Socialized medicine is government owned and operated medicinal care. And holistic medicine is when you're considering all aspects of a person's well-being as a preventative approach to health management. And it's really looking at physical and mental health together in one part. Well, that's it for this lesson. Good work, and hopefully you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon.

Terms to Know

A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.

Holistic Medicine

A type of health care that asserts that all aspects of a person's well-being should be considered in a preventative approach to health management.


A social institution that focuses on the treatment and prevention of illness.

Social Epidemiology

Study of how various diseases on the one hand, and good health on the other, are distributed throughout a population.

Socialized Medicine

Government owned and operated health care.