Journal of Health and Social Behavior Highlights Five Decades of Key Findings from Medical Sociology

Special issue emphasizes impact of social factors and disparities on health and health care in the United States

Prominent in the health reform debate that swirled for much of 2009 and early 2010 was an acknowledgment of the unequal distribution of health care access among Americans — and the evidence that these disparities cost billions of dollars in medical care and lost productivity.

This acknowledgement follows a half-century of contributions by social and behavioral scientists to the study of health and health care in this country, which is the focus of a new, supplemental issue of the American Sociological Association’s Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

As policymakers, public health professionals, and members of the public seek to identify strategies to improve the health of all Americans, they must focus on addressing health where it starts — in our homes, schools, jobs, and communities. Articles in this special issue, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, highlight the persistent inequalities in health and health care in the United States by social status (i.e., education, income, and occupation) as well as by race and ethnicity, and demonstrate how these disparities influence how Americans use the health care system.

From a range of vantage points, the authors illustrate the impact of sociological factors on health and health care and reinforce how much remains to be done to eliminate inequalities, improve access, and contain costs.

The full issue is available here.