Spring 2023

SOC 344 Health, Medicine, and Society [CRN 21074]

Overview of Course

Health, illness, and disease are among the greatest global concerns today. Western, allopathic medicine focuses on diagnosing and treating pathology. What we often refer to as health care is actually sick care. Costs for sick care have grown geometrically in high income countries. United States spending nearly double on sick care that other high-income countries, yet illness and disease exceed almost every other high-income country. Eroding support for public health combined with income inequality has had devastating impacts in lost lives, health care, and burden of disease. From arctic regions to equatorial Africa, people and societies are increasingly experiencing the impacts of environmental degradation.

Using Semester at Sea countries as our laboratory, this course explores the meaning, provision, and impacts of health and medicine in societal and ecological contexts. We will compare and contrast health care systems in wealthy countries like the US, Canada, and European Union. We will delve into global health data from sources such as the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and World Bank data on income disparities in multiple countries using measures such as the GINI coefficient. We will examine the reasons that public health crises such as COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS disproportionally impact low-income people within countries, and low income vs. high income countries. We will discuss the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation on people from those who live in Arctic climates to cattle herders and farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. We will reject the myth that mind and body; health and mental health are separate.

Together, we will take a journey that raises more questions than provides answers. We will reason together using science as our guide and critical thinking as our vehicle.