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What are some sociological concerns regarding health care in the United States, including the practice of medicine and our system of health care delivery? From a sociological perspective, what might improve the United States health care system?

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From the functionalist perspective of Talcott Parsons, health is something that allows people to perform their roles in society effectively, paying back the investment society has made in their education and in raising them from childhood to adulthood. From this perspective, making health care universally accessible free of cost is simply part of making society function effectively in terms of utilization of human resources. Improved health will improve workers' productivity and the ability of all members of our society to fill their proper functions. Parsons would also argue that for people to assume the role of being sick, they must legitimately be diagnosed by doctors and that doctors, and not unauthorized or uncredentialed personnel, should be authoritative in diagnosis and treatment of illness, rather than, for example, insurance companies. 

A social conflict theory would look closely at how health care is unevenly apportioned across social classes and racial divides in the United States, and would see this inequality of access as a fundamental part of conflict between social classes with limiting of access to health care  as a form of racial and class oppression. This theoretical perspective would also examine the way the self-interest of physicians, pharmaceutical companies, and insurance companies is involved in the treatment of health care and suggests that it is important to be vigilant to reveal and contest these interests. 

Empirical approaches might study how and why different types of disease and diagnosis occur in different populations from a demographic and social rather then medical perspective. For example, it might look at whether autism is more common in boys than girls or whether girls are systematically underdiagnosed due to gender biases.


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