Sociology and the Field of Public Health

Sociology and the Field of Public Health

Prepared for the American Sociological Association By EDWARD A. SUCHMAN
Copyright Date: 1963
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 184
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7758/9781610446976
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  • Book Info
    Sociology and the Field of Public Health
    Book Description:

    This work is the fifth in a series of bulletins on the applications of sociology to various fields of professional practice prepared under the joint sponsorship of the American Sociological Association and the Russell Sage Foundation. Previous bulletins have dealt with applications of sociology in the fields of corrections, mental health, education, and military organization.

    Dr. Suchman has performed an important service in his clear delineation of the great potential sociology and related disciplines have for sharpening our understanding of the social factors in health and disease, for intelligent planning and mounting of appropriate action programs, and for improving the organizational structure and institutional mechanisms of the health professions themselves.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-697-6
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-2)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 3-4)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. 5-6)
    Leonard S. Cottrell Jr.

    The present work is the fifth in a series of bulletins on the applications of sociology to various fields of professional practice prepared under the joint sponsorship of the American Sociological Association and Russell Sage Foundation. Previous bulletins have dealt with applications of sociology in the fields of corrections, mental health, education, and military organization.

    As Dr. Suchman points out, there is a natural convergence of research interests in public health and sociology that has been evident for some time. This convergence has become much more visible with the mastering of the major contagious diseases and the growing concern with...

  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 7-8)
    E. A. S.
  5. I INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 9-14)

    While the field of public health is historically rooted in the social reform movements of the nineteenth century, it is only in recent years that systematic working relationships between social science and public health have become formally established. Current developments in the health field have reawakened the concern of public health workers with social factors in the preventive, therapeutic, and rehabilitative aspects of illness and disease. In turn, the inherently social character of many of the newer public health problems has attracted a rapidly increasing number of sociologists to the field of public health. It is much too early, and...

  6. II THE GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIOLOGY IN PUBLIC HEALTH
    (pp. 15-31)

    Historically, the relationship between the health of the public and social factors is a long and natural one dating back to antiquity.¹ Communities have always been concerned with social conditions that were perceived as threats to the health of their members. The efforts of society to improve and maintain its health may be seen in the prayers and rituals of primitive tribes against pestilence. Evidence of a concern with socioenvironmental factors in health may be found in the ancient civilizations of Egypt, India, and China. Many of the early philosophers and precursors of modern medicine concerned themselves as much with...

  7. III THE FIELD OF PUBLIC HEALTH
    (pp. 32-46)

    A sociologist contemplating work in the field of public health should know something about its history and traditions, its current status, and its outlook for the future. This orientation will be helpful both to those sociologists who wish to study public health as a significant aspect of the modern social system and to those who are more interested in applying their sociological knowledge to the solution of problems in an important area of social welfare. Too often social scientists enter an applied field without adequate knowledge of the history and philosophy, goals and organization of that field, only to find...

  8. IV SOCIOLOGY AND BASIC HEALTH PROCESSES
    (pp. 47-72)

    We may distinguish four fundamental propositions affecting the relationship of sociology to public health:

    1. Social factors are basic determinants in the distribution of many diseases. Disease is a phenomenon that varies geographically. Underlying these differential rates of occurrence are social and cultural conditions that strongly influence the disease environment of the individual—his exposure and his susceptibility.

    2. Social factors play an important role in the etiology of many diseases. Such factors may act directly as causal agents in the occurrence of the disease or indirectly as contributing factors that increase or decrease the probability of disease.

    3. Social factors define which...

  9. V SOCIOLOGY APPLIED TO PUBLIC HEALTH PRACTICE
    (pp. 73-99)

    The daily activities of public health practitioners consist largely of the highly pragmatic operation of numerous public health programs. While the field of public health in its growth toward professional status has shown increasing interest in understanding the social processes discussed in the previous chapter, the primary concern of public health is still what it should be—the devising and carrying out of action programs to meet the health needs of the public. This field of public health practice is largely based upon practical personal experience and only recently have attempts been made to codify some of the more general...

  10. VI ORGANIZATIONAL AND OCCUPATIONAL STRUCTURE OF PUBLIC HEALTH
    (pp. 100-129)

    Public health constitutes one of the major social subsystems of a community. As such, it displays the significant features of any social system: (1) an organizational structure including administrative arrangements for the provision of health services; (2) a circumscribed set of functions defining its goals and objectives; (3) a group of functionaries to carryon its activities; (4) a rationale or ideology that justifies its existence; (5) a set of tools and techniques for performing its functions; and (6) an interrelationship with other systems in the community, such as education and welfare. The analysis and interpretation of these basic social characteristics...

  11. VII ACTIVITIES OF SOCIOLOGISTS IN PUBLIC HEALTH
    (pp. 130-154)

    In previous chapters we have dealt with the relationship of sociology as a discipline to public health. We now shift our focus to the professional representatives of this discipline—the sociologists—and discuss some of the characteristics, activities, and problems of sociologists entering the field of public health today. Our main emphasis will be upon the unique contribution that sociologists “qua” sociologists can and do make to public health. Sociologists in public health may find themselves performing a great many valuable functions that are only remotely related to their training or skills as a sociologist. But for us the major...

  12. VIII PATTERNS OF COLLABORATION AND INTERACTION
    (pp. 155-174)

    When the sociologist leaves the safe and familiar home grounds of the university to enter the field of public health, he faces a new and strange world of different, and perhaps even threatening, values and personalities as well as concepts and methods. He must learn to live in this world because he is there for the explicit purpose of collaborative effort and there can be no valid retreat into independent work. As a professional sociologist, he brings with him specific knowledge and skills and, perhaps just as important, a point of view and approach to health problems which constitute his...

  13. IX PROSPECTS FOR THE FUTURE
    (pp. 175-182)

    Current forces in society and developments in medicine are straining at the limitations imposed by the basic six or seven functions traditionally allocated to public health. Dwork now speaks of the four “A’s”—aging, alcoholism, air pollution, and accident prevention; Ginzburg of the three “D’s”—diet, drinking, and driving; someone else of the “R’s”—radiation, rehabilitation, and recruitment. These are the public health problems of the future and the inevitable shift in emphasis from infectious agents to behavior of people is obvious. Stainbrook has this to say:

    Progressively, we are creating for ourselves an almost totally man-made physical, social, and...