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Health care is necessary for well-being of every individual. However, the health care systems vary in different countries. The paper seeks to discuss the traditional, current and future strategic healthcare systems in Australia. Also, sociological theories, concepts and perceptions that have been used to describe the nature of healthcare will be discussed. These theories include functionalism theories, conflict and symbolic theories. This will help us in understanding the behaviours, social work interactions and the relationships between Australian individuals. In addition, the paper will discuss the impacts of the theories to health care practitioners and the general health care systems. People from lower social classes do not afford proper medication due to high costs and those in power are not willing to assist them. Therefore, there is a gap in the health care services between the high and the low socioeconomic groups in Australia. The government should take this into consideration since every individual needs health care for survival.
Health care system constitutes professions and activities that aim at promoting and sustaining life (World Health Organization, 2018). The government is responsible for ensuring the availability of these resources in the health care systems. It is therefore the role of the government to ensure good health by providing adequate health care finances and policies for equal services to all people despite the lack of money by the less fortunate. According to World Health Organizations, a health care system that functions well ensures that all people get essential medical products, technologies and vaccines in a qualified, cost effective and efficient manner. Similarly, good professionals are those who are responsible, efficient and fair in promoting the best health care services when provided with all the necessary resources (World Health Organization, 2018). All these efforts are critical for well- functioning of any health care system.
History, Social and Cultural Analysis of Health Care in Australia
Traditionally, there were disparities in health care system between indigenous and non-indigenous populations in Australia. Indigenous populations such as Aborigines and Torres Strait were faced with more health risks because of implication of racisms and socioeconomic disadvantages in health care systems (Ally, 2014). According to one research, the disparities in health care systems of Australia are evident in the cases of chronic diseases such as heart attack and diabetes which were more frequent among Indigenous population. The lower socioeconomic classes constituted 20% chronic diseases in Australia in 2014-2015 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2016). However, the inequalities in health risks were also associated with external conditions and factors of individual that are uncontrolled. For instance, the high health risks behaviors of Indigenous population are perceived to be promoted by the historical events that disrupted their social lives. The population had high risks because of frequently engaging in poor social behaviors such as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and abusing other others (Factor, Kawachi, Williams, 2011). The research reported that 43.8% indigenous Australia were daily smokers compared to 15.17% non- indigenous population (Australian Bureu odf Statistics, 2016).
There are various theories and concepts that explain why the things were done in that manner. Firstly, the conflict theory regarded the society as in competition for inadequate resources (lumen, 2018). According to the theory, society is made up of different social classes which compete for resources such as materials, social and political resources such as education, hospitals, housing and employment. Basically, some people have the ability to obtain and keep more resources than others. The government nature of offering unequal structural health care systems was necessary in order to maintain the unequal structure of the society. The theory suggests that the origin of such inequalities in social institutions is dated back to beginning of civilizations where the powerful groups became dominant over others. The impacts of disparities were felt differently between different groups on the basis of race, education and gender. The different classes contributed to moderating the reaction of the people to the inequalities. Also, the reactions were moderated by the rates of mobility and legitimate perceptions of those in powers. The people from lower socioeconomic classes were discriminated and offered with poor services. Also, it reports that the social, economic and political inequalities resulted in conflicts. The conflicts were considered as moderator and stabilizer of the society. However, it was important to resolve the conflicts so as to have an agreement future. Resolving conflicts leads to less tension and hostility. Therefore, the groups worked together to establish dissent central powers and internal solidarity. Conflict theory has been elaborated with development of critical theory. Critical theory includes other social sciences and philosophy in explaining the causes of inequality in social resources (Crossman, (2018). Similarly, explanations of inequality based on gender and race have been developed through elaboration of critical theory. Critical race theory illustrates the superiority of the white community in power, wealth and prestige.
Another theory which illustrates the traditional structure of the society in Australia is the functionalism theory. Functionalist Approach considers good health as fundamental to the growth of the society (lumen, 2018). Medical care ensures continual survival and encourages good performance in the society. Death, particularly premature death kills the dreams of young individuals required for stability of the society. This is majorly brought by poor health care services that lead to suffering in the society. Sick people should be treated with care since sickness comes on its own. The family and friends should support them in seeking medication. The society plays a role in meeting the social and biological needs of an individual. In addition, it is important for a physician to confirm the illness so that the appropriate medication can be administered. However, the sick person must have the need to get well so that people will understand it better (Libraries, 2018). It is therefore clear that various bodies such as economy, family, government, healthcare and education are vital for the proper functioning of the society. According to Lumen, there are different functions of social processes. One, manifests functions which are the outcomes of the positive processes and two, Latent functions which show the consequences of unwanted processes. The manifests function in health care systems for example, are recovery from a condition and promoting long lifespan. In contrary, latent functions include persistence in illness, low life expectancies and premature deaths. These social processes are regarded as dysfunctions in the society.
The Symbolic Interactionalist Theory shows the importance of society in confirming the health status of individual. According to the theory, the health and mental conditions are not considered so unless confirmed by the society (lumen, 2018). It shows that the health or illness of an individual is part of the structure of the society. People communicate with symbols and language in shaping the society. Contrary to conflict theory, Symbolic Interactionism theory emphasizes on how people in the society interact and share information. This is achieved through use of in depth interviews and observations that help in understanding the symbolic nature of the society. This theory is extended by constructivism theory which shows that the reality is constructed in the minds of people. Therefore, interaction with people is crucial in developing social constructs and the interaction that lasts long as agreed by most contribute to development of a better social constructs. By understanding the Symbolic Interactionist theory, conditions that society did not consider as illness became illness after Ritalin development (Libraries, 2018). Also, the theory has established studies that define the interaction between the professionals and patients. For instance, professionals study the condition of the patient by displaying their professional knowledge management in the field. Similarly, patients often required to give physician time, address them as doctors and patients often referred to by their first names (Libraries, 2018). Professionals are always attired in white lab coats and use professional language to describe the condition as opposed to layman’s language. The theory illustrates the importance of understanding social life through interactions so as to achieve the quality health care services in the society.
The hierarchical and power concepts and perspectives interfere with the ethics of the health care practitioners. The health care systems in Australia encouraged the inequality in service delivery where the patients from lower social classes had no voice (Deborah, 1992). The position of the practitioners was considered more important than the situation of the patients. The theories that encouraged legitimacy of those in powers manifested in health care practitioners where they treated the population from higher social classes with efficiency and fairness while those from lower classes were discriminated and provided with poor health care services. This was due to inability to cover the high costs of medications by the lower classes groups. Research shows that the mortality rates of poor people in Australia were 54000 more in 2009-2014 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2016). This shows that practitioners did not adhere with health care ethics which requires that all groups should get access to equal and quality health care services despite their differences in socioeconomic status as reported by WHO. However, these theories have been criticized and the government has developed systems with policies that ensure equality in health care systems. The theory of functionalism has been criticized for not providing adequate explanation on social change (Potts, Vella, Allan, & Sipe, 2014). As a result, dysfunctions that used to repeat themselves in the society with no function have been abandoned. On the other hand, the conflict theory has been criticized for excluding other groups of people in the society (lumen, 2018). This has contributed to progression of social structures without undergoing abrupt change that was encouraged by the theory. Similarly, symbolism Interactionist theory has been criticized for not regarding illness as reality in the society. Today, serious health conditions and illnesses are regarded and treated as required by the health care practitioners.
The current Australian health care system provides equal healthcare services to both Aborigines and Torres Strait as the non- indigenous peoples. The government has conducted campaigns that aim at closing the gap in the health care systems and life expectancy between indigenous and non-indigenous people (Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet, 2018). The campaigns are incorporated with significant improvements of health care services to Aborigines and Torres Strait. The Aborigines and Torres Strait agreed in 2008 to work together in ensuring equal health status and life expectancy among all people in Australia. This was a vision of 2030 as signed in the Indigenous health equality summit statement of intent. Measurable targets of achieving this have been set by the government. These include: closing the gap of life expectancy by 2031, reducing the child mortality rate by half in 2018, ensuring early education to 95% of Aborigines and Torres by 2055 among other improvement targets. However, the government progresses slowly and inconsistently in its commitment towards the targets (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2015). It should therefore consider taking substantial steps in order to achieve the targets within the set times. Similarly, the government should set reasonable time frames instead of giving more future time that will promote prolonged suffering of the less fortune groups. The commitment should include increasing health care funds and programs to help them acquire medication at low no costs. They should also be provided with health care insurance coverage that will help them seek medications on time. In addition, they should monitor the impacts of their health strategic plans in order to ensure that they are consistent health outcomes of the Torres Strait and Aborigines.
Sociology deals social life and is therefore important in understanding health conditions of individual by health care practitioners. Different sociological perspectives and theories help the practitioners to understand the social and behavioral risks that pose biomedical risks (Brosnan & Kirby, 2016). For instance, smoking and abusing other drugs increases frequency occurrence of chronic disease such as cancer and diabetes. Also, socioeconomic factors such as poverty and poor working environment increase the risks. It is clear that the existence of different social classes resulted from civilizations where the other groups which were dominant become more powerful than others. This led to inequality in distribution of social resources such as health care services. The theories that explained the structure of the society in Australia supported such disparities with the aim of maintaining the stability of the structure. The hospital systems gave privileges to health care practitioners instead of the voices of the patients. However, critics have reduced the emphasis of the theories and this has led to equality in health status between of both Indigenous and non- indigenous population in Australia. The government has established policies and programs that aim at achieving the equality. However, the progress of commitment is slow and inconsistent hence there is need to take significant steps with proper actions in order to achieve their targets.
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