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Sociology of Health and Illness

Course Code: SOCI 2280
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Sociology
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Seminar
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course reviews various topics pertinent to the social organization of health, illness and medicine. Through application of the sociological perspective to the Canadian context, important social issues relating to health outcomes are critically examined.

Course Content

  1. Introduction
    • Overview of course
    • A brief introduction to sociological approaches to health & illness
    • Social structure, social organization, sociological method
    • Sociological theories as applied to health & illness topics
  2. Sociology of Health and Illness
    • Social definition of health
    • Objective definition of disease & illness
    • Subjective definitions of illness
  3. Demography and Epidemiology
    • Understanding epidemiology
    • Health status of Canadian population
    • Mortality and life expectancy
  4. Inequalities in Health and Illness and Health Care Utilization
    • Gender, social class, race and ethnicity, and age 
  5. Help Seeking and Experiential Dimensions of Illness
    • Seeking medical help
    • Social support
    • Effects of stress
    • Social meanings & experiential aspects of disease
  6. Medicalization
    • Historical development of medicalization
    • Moral dimensions of medical diagnosis/labeling
    • Social and economic significance of medicalization
  7. Health Care Professionals
    • Social organization of health care: the professions
    • Contemporary issues
  8. Nursing
    • Contemporary issues in nursing
    • Education and work
  9. Medicare and Health Care Policy
    • Historical development of Medicare
    • Medicare in Canada, past, present & future prospects
  10. Issues in the Medical Care System
    • Racism
    • The drug industry
    • Ethics
    • Politics of disease
  11. Environment and Health
    • Environment/disease relationships
    • Balancing economy and health

Methods of Instruction

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following:  lectures, audio visual materials (including overheads, films), small group discussions, oral presentations (discussion seminars) and specialist guest speakers.

Means of Assessment

Course evaluation is based on formative and summative elements and is in accord with the Douglas College student evaluation policy.

Specific components of evaluation will include some of the following: exams made up of multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and short essay questions; essay assignment; oral presentation; and participation in class discussions, student presentations, and group discussions.

Specific evaluation criteria will be provided by the instructor at the beginning of the semester.

An example of one evaluation scheme would be:

Midterm exam  20%
Essay/written assignment           25%
Final exam  25%
Oral presentation  15%
Participation  15%
Total 100%

Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the successful student will be able to:

  1. Describe some of the ways in which social and cultural factors affect illness outcomes and health care practices.
  2. Describe and evaluate social structural conditions associated with health and illness issues.
  3. Critically evaluate the political and economic contexts relating to health and illness outcomes.
  4. Describe the roles of health care practitioners and the institutional context of health care delivery.
  5. Apply sociological perspective(s) to a range of health, illness, and medical issues.
  6. Critically evaluate significant social issues relating to the organization of health and illness as these pertain to contemporary Canadian society.

course prerequisites

SOCI 1125 or SOCI 1145 or SOCI 1155 or old SOCI 135

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.