Health, Medicine, and Society [CRN 79564]

Discipline: Sociology
Instructor: Llambias-Wolff
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 1230
End: 1350
Field Work: Day 1 | October 25, 2017 | India
Prerequisites: One (1) introductory sociology course Download Syllabus

It appears that everybody knows about health issues, thus the concept of health is very familiar to us. However many have never thought precisely what it really means and how health relates to society.  Health is a complex subject and thus requires intensive and extensive interdisciplinary study – which synthesizes theories, methodologies and findings from multiple disciplines – to develop understandings that encompass the global, the local and the intersectional. The course explores health and illness in the broadest possible context. In doing so, it looks beyond the normal limits of biomedicine to a much wider set of questions that engage social, cultural, political and moral aspects of human experience.

This course is divided in four sections. Section One: The study of Health and Society, discusses concepts and definitions of health, illness, diseases and medicine; it explores the theoretical perspectives and approaches to the study of health and advances in interdisciplinary research on health and society. Section Two: The Political Economy of Health, analyses the social and economic factors, the health/illness process, the biomedical model and the medical industrial complex. Section Three: Comparative Health Systems in the Global World, covers the major health influences and determinants and compares worldwide health systems and its experiences.  Finally, Section Four: Health Challenges for the Future, discusses models and strategies, critical Health issues in the developing world and emerging societies, global epidemics, demographic and epidemiological transitions, and introduces to new health paradigms.

 Through a dynamic participatory approach, the course brings together theories and findings from a number of disciplines, most notably sociology, political economy, cultural anthropology and social history.

Field Work

Country: India
Day: 1
Date: October 25, 2017

India’s state of Kerala, where Cochin (or Kochi) is located, is the centre of the practice, teaching and training of Ayurveda medicine (also called Ayurvedic). Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest medical systems. It originated in India and has evolved there over thousands of years. The term “Ayurveda” combines the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge). Ayurveda means “the science of life.”

The aim of Ayurveda medicine is to integrate and balance the body, mind, and spirit. This is believed to help prevent illness and promote wellness. Ayurveda medicine uses a variety of products and techniques to cleanse the body and restore balance.

Ayurveda medicine continues to be practiced in India, where nearly 80 percent of the population uses it exclusively or combined with conventional (Western) medicine.

In the United States, Ayurveda medicine is considered complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included a comprehensive survey of CAM used by Americans, some 200,000 U.S. adults used Ayurveda medicine in the previous year.

During the morning we will visit an Ayurveda health center, hospital or college affiliated to Kerala University of Health Sciences to observe, understand, discuss and familiarize us with Ayurveda medicine. We will interact with health personnel and eventually patients. In the afternoon we will collectively discuss, analyze and compare our views.

Learning Objectives:
1. To expose students to alternative medicine and to have a first hand practical experience with millennial health practices.
2. To appreciate and stimulate pluralism and diversity in the understanding of the health-illness process and in alternative care practices.