SOC 308 • Global Inequalities and Health Care
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
This course provides an overview of the physical and mental health of human populations, paying particular attention to health care delivery systems around the world. The first half of the course consists of an examination of patterns of disease among different social groups, and reviews historical trends in morbidity and mortality. For all countries of the world achieving equity in the delivery of health care services is a central goal, but one that is challenging and hard to achieve. As part of these lectures we examine the underlying principles that define equity in health care. Almost everywhere, the poor receive fewer services and lower quality health care than the affluent. In this segment of the course we examine aggregate statistics that show that even today the poor suffer from more illness and have higher mortality rates than the affluent. Since disadvantaged minority groups have higher rates of poverty than the majority population they are at higher risk of illness and death. In addition to poverty, other genetic and social factors account for different group health profiles. In order to better understand these profiles we examine the links between social variables such as race, class, and gender, and the health of different groups in both the developed and developing nations.
The second half of the course focuses on health care systems in the United States and other countries. In this section we review the history of public health initiatives and examine the reasons for the heavy emphasis on curative medicine that characterizes modern scientific medicine. We also review how the aging of populations and improvements in medical technology contributes to high rates of medical inflation and soaring hospital costs, and critique the response by government and private insurers to the potential financial crisis. An important question we address is why the United States is the only developed nation without a universal health care system. What policy decisions and political processes have resulted in our reliance on an employer-based, private group health plan model? We will end by asking whether this is the time for a radically different set of options and the realistic possibilities of such reform in today's political climate. As part of these general discussions the lectures will address specific policy issues including health care access for legal and undocumented immigrants, the role of non-governmental organizations in health care advocacy and practice, access to health-related social services, and the potential rationing of health care.