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Social Inequalities In Health Care

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Social inequalities in contemporary society

Learning Outcomes: 1) Explore the nature of contemporary society

2) Analyse how social inequalities influence the life chances and

health of individuals

To completely understand our changing society, we must look at the history of change we have gone through. To do this we must identify the changing factors of our society. This includes the age of our population; the roles gender has taken on, how race and ethnicity has affected our society, why and how social class works and the geographical location of people in Britain. In this report all these topics will be covered and local and regional statistics given to help us fully understand our changing society.

Social Class

Stratification systems have been used all over the world, for centuries to try and classify people by what they do or what they own. There are three types of systems that are most well known. Firstly, the caste system. This is the most rigid of systems and is commonly linked to India. The social positions of people are given at birth in accordance to the Hindu religion. This system does not allow individuals to move from one �caste’ to another (1).

Feudalism was used in medieval Europe to �class’ people. This system was based on what the person owned, people in larger estates had more power and privileges then those in smaller ones. This system, like the caste system, is a closed system and doesn’t allow individuals to move between the classes.

Lastly, there is stratification of social classes in Britain. Unlike the other two, this system is based on occupation, income and ownership of wealth. These things often affect the education, lifestyle and standard of health of the individuals. The biggest difference between this and the others is that this system isn’t based on religious believes and the classes aren’t clearly defined. Also there are no legal or religious restrictions on individuals moving or marrying into other classes.

Multi-culturism and a changing economy are slowly eroding away the British class system, however many of the original features do still remain (2). The Registrar Generals Standard Occupation Classification Measurement has been in place since 1901 and is based on the occupations of the individuals (3). Different positions in the system represent different levels of power, influence and money. Britain’s stratification system is split into 6 groups:

I. Professional

II. Intermediate

III. Skilled вЂ" manual or non-manual

IV. Partly skilled

V. Unskilled

Although this system has been in place for over a hundred years, there are many problems with it, it doesn’t deal well with women and their jobs, as they were unlikely to work in 1901, it also doesn’t have an options for the unemployed.

British politicians claim there are no social classes in modern society; however, an individual’s position in the economic structure greatly affects their life chances.

One of the most blatant differences in health chance is the rate in which, middle class women get breast cancer. This is the only time a �higher class’ citizen is more likely to be affected by a disease then someone in the lower classes. This is believed to happen as, middle class women decide to have children later on in life, not allowing a cancer fighting hormone to be released at the earlier stages of their adult life.

Undeniable changes are occurring in the distribution of different occupational groups, especially in the non-manual jobs, this is due to a rise in clerical job’s, leading the public sector to be one of the largest employer’s with over 27% of the population being employed by them in 1997. Also this has happened due to people wanting to get a �profession’ rather then a �job’ (4).

In 1982, �The strategy of equality’ by J. Le Grand, found that the higher your social status, the more money the government will spend on your treatment, leading to inequalities in the treatments people receive (5).

Being born into a certain social class may affect your health drastically, a child born in the lower end of the social systems is twice as likely to die in the first few months of their life than a child born in the professional class (6). (See appendix1.1) The well being of a child is also at risk when born lower down in the social scale, their vaccinations and dentist visits are limited. (See appendix1.2)

K.Moser found that unemployment was a key factor in health issues in society, mortality rates were higher for those who were unemployed and the prospect of unemployment is detrimental to the health of an individual. M.H.Brenner (1977) suggested loss of a job is like bereavement but isn’t seen or respect as such (7).

Inequalities in health still exist and are mainly blamed on the stratification system in the UK. The Black Report suggested there were 4 main reasons for this:

Ð'* The Artefact Explanation: the inequalities debate sees ill health as a biological entity, which differs between social classes.

Ð'* The Behavioural or Cultural Explanation: places emphasis on the individuals and the consequences of their behaviour, when they choose to eat, drink and live healthily the inequalities will be reduced.

Ð'* Health Selection Explanation: similar view to Darwinism, people with ill health will fall down the social scale.

Ð'* Structural or Materialist Explanation: sees factors outside the individuals control, position in society is crucial, this relates to their ownership, income and quality of life, few of these thing’s can be controlled be the individual. This is the strongest inequality in health care (8).

To keep an eye out for the inequalities in health care system the government has set up the national statistics socio-economic classification (NS-SEC), this show’s the correlation between social classes and health inequalities and allows people to see where there is need for concern.

N.Abercrombie (1994) identified 3 major



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