Handbook of Medical Sociology for Nursing, Physiotherapy and Paramedical Students Varun Kumar Malhotra, Ritika Malhotra
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Sociology and Its Relevance to Medical SciencesChapter 1

Sociology is the scientific study of societies: Study of human behavior, and relationships between human beings. Medical sociology deals mainly with social factors that are related with health and disease.
Relevance of medical sociology
Study of sociology is relevant and important for future doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and other paramedics, both for diagnosis and management of patients. It is, as important to know who we are treating, as what we are treating. Relevance of Sociology for students of medical, nursing and physiotherapy are as follows:
  • World Health Organization has defined health as “a state of complete physical, social and mental well being, and not merely an absence of disease or infirmity”. As per this definition social well being of an individual is as important as physical or mental well being.
  • It is now well appreciated that health of individuals and community, and occurrences of diseases are intimately related with social factors, e.g. type of family, community (rural or urban), culture, religion, folk-ways, mores, life style, etc. These aspects are learnt through process of socialization, in primary and secondary social groups.
  • Social control operating through informal or formal means has significant influence on health behavior of members 2of community. Recent technological innovations like TV, internet, affordable two-wheelers, etc. have brought about significant social changes that have implications on health of individuals and community.
  • Changing status and roles of women in Indian society in recent decades has affected all aspects of human life, including health.
  • One of the pillars of primary health care is community participation. Community participation can be best achieved if we are aware of community; its leaders, customs, taboos, etc. In short, if we want the community to participate in our march towards Health for All, we have to know community.
  • Determinants of health, e.g. nutrition, environmental health etc. are all related with culture, and human behavior.
  • Life style is gaining important role in causation of modern diseases, e.g. obesity, IHD, Diabetes, cancers and HIV/AIDS.
  • Social leaders have been recognized as valuable resources for brining about positive changes in health behavior of individuals and groups.
  • Social pathology deals with social factors responsible for diseases. Poverty, illiteracy, and ignorance are factors that are closely related with incidence and prevalence of diseases.
  • Studies have shown that there are difference in incidence and prevalence of diseases, mortality rates and pattern of diseases in different Social Classes.
  • It has now been well recognized that availability of health services is not the only answer to prevention. Health services should be acceptable and affordable by the people who need them the most.
  • Social Security is closely related to provision of comprehensive health services.
  • 3Health related legislations need an understanding of society as well as medical aspects of the disease.
  • Medicosocial problems like delinquency, prostitution, crimes, beggary, etc. have medical implications. These require combined and coordinated involvement of medical and social agencies as well as State.
  • Similarly many medical problems like care of handicapped, old people, etc. can not be addressed, unless there is active involvement of society.
  • NGOs have in many fields of public health have achieved what the Government machinery could not. Example family planning, HIV/AIDS, care of disabled. The lesson learnt is that better understanding of community is essential for achieving our health related aims and objectives.
  • Health Indicators of Kerala are better than many richer states of our Nation. It is believed that high literacy rate especially of women is an important determinant of health.
  • Diet is an integral part of culture and its modification is an important aspect in many diseases example obesity, diabetes, malnutrition, etc.