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Second Essay Assignment: The Social Sciences and Healthcare Humanities

Follow the Guidelines for Humanities Essays and write a 4 to 6-page essay on one of the topics below. The paper is due March 31 for an in-class peer review and in (Blackboard) on April 3. The resources for this assignment include The Medicalization of Society, Dancing Skeletons, and handouts on Concepts of Disease and Illness, Definitions of Culture, and Cultural Competency. Earlier class materials may also remain relevant. You are not expected to incorporate all of these sources in your essay, but you should make use of sufficient course materials to create context, establish purpose, address course objectives, and fully develop your theme. You must make extensive use of either The Medicalization of Society (topic 1) or Dancing Skeletons (topic two); option three requires use of both texts in the essay.

Choose and refine one of the following essay topics:

1.    Medicalization

Social science approaches to the subject of health and disease in society generally emphasize the interplay of social, cultural, economic, behavioral and biomedical factors. Peter Conrad’s sociological work in The Medicalization of Society explores the process by which conditions and concerns that in the past did not have medical definition or treatments have become understood as medical matters by at least a portion of contemporary society. He also studies the agents responsible for this medicalization and, in some instances, the ways in which this process is contested. Write an essay that explains the medicalization process and illustrates how multiple factors contribute to this process through close examination of selected examples.

2.    Cultural Competency

The MCPHS definition of cultural competency includes the ability to: “effectively and comfortably communicate across cultures with patients of differing backgrounds, taking into account aspects of trust in order to adopt mutually acceptable objectives and measures.” Dancing Skeletons describes how anthropologists seek knowledge of other cultures and how cross-cultural understanding is a foundation for health interventions at both interpersonal and public health/public policy levels. Write an essay that discusses how this anthropological study illuminates barriers to cross-cultural understanding and contributes to cultural competency in healthcare.

3.    Social Science and Healthcare Humanities

The disciplines of sociology and anthropology are dedicated to the study of culture and society. The sub-fields of medical sociology and medical anthropology seek knowledge of how culture influences concepts of health and disease and how health and illness beliefs determine social practices, including decisions to seek health care. American and Malian cultures have relatively little in common, but in both environments cultural beliefs and values influence how people conceptualize illness, disease and well-being; these beliefs and values also influence social behaviors that have health consequences. Write an essay that discusses how the social sciences as represented by Dancing Skeletons and The Medicalization of Society contribute to the healthcare humanities.

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