The branch of sociology that deals with the study and analysis of medical organizations and institutions, and how social and cultural factors affect the domains of health and medicine, in sociological terms is called medical sociology. It is sometimes, also referred to as health sociology.
It helps in producing knowledge about various methods, the way medical professionals act and interact, and the socio-cultural effects that medical practice leads to. Health is often viewed to be something wholly or primarily a biomedical or individual issue, having nothing to do with other individuals or society. This belief considers that the prime determinants of health are purely biological or depends entirely on the individual.
While most diseases might be entirely based on biological causes, sociologists held that this picture is a little complex one. Some kind of a disease might not only be considered as a medical problem but a social or psychological problem as well. Diseases can also occur due to the existing social structures, the lifestyle of an individual, their social identities, experiences, etc. for instance, a person belonging to the lower caste might be deprived of certain basic necessities like pure water, healthy food, good medical facilities, etc which may make them vulnerable to diseases. Through medical sociology, the condition of the patients is improved as a wholesome and detailed study is undertaken by the medical sociologist by using their analytical and interpretive techniques. In addition, researches or surveys are done on patients, educating people about various socio-cultural factors affecting health, or by working to prevent the outbreak of any disease, etc also helps is improving medical facilities.
Medical sociology is generally taught as a part of the broader disciplines of sociology, clinical psychology or even health studies. It is also combined with medical ethics or bioethics for Master’s degree courses. Its presence in the field of medicine and health is seen in those branches of medical studies relating to the community of Social Medicine and later in General Practices as well reflecting ‘social’ factors as causes of various ailments. It helps in shaping the concepts relating to the fields of healthcare researches, medical economics, medical anthropology, social epidemiology, demography, and ecology.
There are opportunities for those who want to practice this discipline. They can take a degree in sociology and continue to focus on the area of medicine and health care. They can acquire knowledge about the complex process in which social issues affect the health of the people living in a particular society. They can study the already existing data about those effects and offer additional information to them or how those social issues can be solved and eradicated.
Medical sociologists can either serve as healthcare workers, nurses, psychologists, or can go on to develop and analyze policies, work as hospital administrators, and human resource representatives. They can apply their knowledge about the social contexts to facilitate improved healthcare agencies, organizational arrangements, and processes of care. In short, knowledge in medical sociology helps in the improvement of health and wellbeing of the society as a whole.