Inequalities in Health

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Inequalities of Health
Gemma McCann

Inequalities of health
Gemma McCann

Word count 1310
Within this assignment I am going to explore the sociological perspectives of Marxism and Functionalism and a brief view on interactionism in relation to health and inequalities in health. I will explore sociological explanations for these inequalities focusing on structural materialist, artefact, social selection and cultural explanations.

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, spiritual and social wellbeing, and not just the absence of disease” (WHO, 1974). Health inequalities are the differences in health or healthcare opportunities in different societies this may be due to income, lifestyle or the area in which someone lives.

The functionalist approach to society of health and illness comes from the work of Talcott Parsons. Parsons began writing about health and illness in the early 1950’s; at this time very few sociologists had paid any attention to the idea of illness. Parsons view is that all actions can be understood in terms of how they help society to function effectively or not. Functionalists believe that when a person is sick they are unable to perform their social roles normally, they see this as a deviance, therefore believing that illness needs to be controlled ensuring the “deviant” is helped or forced into performing their social role again. Functionalists believe that if you are sick they cannot make themselves better and need to get professional help. They believe that people are obliged to want to get better as being sick is only tolerated if there is a desire to get better. In The social System (1951), Talcott Parsons put forward one of the most famous concepts in the sociology of health and illness: the “sick role” (Haralambos, 2004 p.295). Functionalists also believe that poverty and ill health are important factors in society. They believe that inequality is not only inevitable but...
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