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The Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine Vol. 11, 3rd Quarter 1996


The Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine

FH Knelman, PhD

The Sociology of Health

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If we view the health care delivery system as a social system, it becomes amenable to sociological analysis. Sociology deals basically with the behaviour of social groups, organizations and institutions. As well, it deals with the phenomenon of social process and social change. It is valuable in analysing the behaviour of a particular social group to identify the major actors and the natsire and source of their behaviour. Where there are multiple actors cemented together tightly by common goals, a social complex emerges in which diverse actors participate, nevertheless creating a predictable pattern of behaviour.

In analysing social systems, whether simple or complex, it is very important to understand the world view or belief system (paradigm) that guides their behaviour and tends to determine roles, norms, status, hierarchy, rewards and values. Social systems are subject to radical change or paradigm shifts and we can discern the beginning of just such a shift in the current health system.

The existence of socio-political complexes is a natural consequence of groups and organizations (the actors), held together by strongly shared norms, roles, values and world views or paradigms. We are basing our analysis on the U.S.A., a dominant power in the world and one which strongly influences Canada. We can discern three distinct social complexes in the U.S.A. the military-industrial, the automobile-petroleum-highway, and the medical-pharmaceutical-insurance complex. These terms identify the major social actors or members of the complex. It will be, in part, our task to identify the paradigm that guides the latter system.

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