An Apple a Day: An Exploration of Primary Care Physicians' Definitions of Health
Haverford College. Department of Sociology
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This thesis examines how physicians define health and prioritize care, and whether or not these definitions and priorities vary given geographic location and demographics of patient population. 18 different primary care physicians, including pediatricians, adult primary care providers, and geriatricians and from different areas on the East Coast, were interviewed. They served patient populations of varying demographics, some in privileged communities and others in underserved communities. The doctors that worked in privileged communities defined health as an individual social concept, focusing on holistic evaluations of care. The doctors that worked in underserved communities focused on how larger social institutions impacted the health states of their patients. Given these social barriers, these physicians provided care practically, working to ensure the provision of basic, physical health care to their patient populations. This data exposes problems with the canonical distinction between illness and sickness, a central health definition framework in medical sociology. To expand this framework to more adequately reflect how health functions and is defined, I propose expanding the definition of 'sickness' to include holistic sickness and practical sickness.