1st Edition

Social Medicine and the Coming Transformation

    308 Pages
    by Routledge

    308 Pages
    by Routledge

    Social medicine, starting two centuries ago, has shown that social conditions affect health and illness more than biology does, and social change affects the outcomes of health and illness more than health services do. Understanding and exposing sickness-generating structures in society helps us change them.

    This first book providing a critical introduction to social medicine sheds light on an increasingly important field. The authors draw on examples worldwide to show how principles based on solidarity and mutual aid have enabled people to participate collaboratively to construct health-promoting social conditions. The book offers vital information and analysis to enhance our understanding regarding the promotion of health through social and individual means; the micro-politics of medical encounters; the social determination of illness; the influences of racism, class, gender, and ethnicity on health; health and empire; and health praxis, reform, and sociomedical activism. Illustrations are included throughout the book to convey these key themes and important issues, as well as on Routledge’s webpage for the book, under the Support Materials tab.

    The authors offer compelling ways to understand and to change the social dimensions of health and health care. Students, teachers, practitioners, activists, policy makers, and people concerned about health and health care will value this book, which goes beyond the usual approaches of texts in public health, medical sociology, health economics, and health policy.

    Table of Contents

    Preface, Acknowledgments

    1. What Is Social Medicine?
    2. One and a Half Centuries of Forgetting and Remembering the Social Origins of Illness
    3. The Social Determination of Illness, Part 1: Health and Social Contradictions
    4. The Social Determination of Illness, Part 2: Inequality, Class, Race, Ethnicity, and Gender
    5. Social Medicine in the United States
    6. Health and Empire, Part 1: Empire’s Historical Health Component
    7. Health and Empire, Part 2: Resisting Empire, Building an Alternative Future in Medicine and Public Health
    8. Social Medicine in Latin America
    9. Social Medicine and the Micro-Politics of Medical Encounters
    10. Health Praxis, Reform, and Sociomedical Activism

    Appendix: Organizations and Resources in Social Medicine



    Howard Waitzkin is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of New Mexico and practices internal medicine part time in New Mexico and Illinois. For many years he has been active in struggles focusing on social medicine in the United States and Latin America. He is author and coordinator with the Working Group for Health beyond Capitalism of Health Care under the Knife: Moving beyond Capitalism for Our Health (2018), and author of Medicine and Public Health at the End of Empire (2011), among other books.

    Alina Pérez is a community-based physician at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford, Massachusetts. A graduate of the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford, she completed her residency at the Beth Israel Deaconess Harvard-Affiliated Medical Center in Boston. She has conducted research on health policy and is pursuing interests in global health and social medicine.

    Matthew Anderson is Associate Professor in the Department of Family and Social Medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. As a family physician working in the Bronx, New York, he is a core faculty member of the Montefiore Residency Program in Social Medicine. He is founder and co-editor of the bilingual online journal Social Medicine/Medicina Social.

    Social medicine has the power to transform how we understand health and practice medicine. This book is an excellent introduction to the history and underlying philosophy of social medicine, but most importantly it points to the future, showing how a better understanding of social medicine can actually improve the health of populations.

    Sandro Galea,

    Dean & Robert A. Knox Professor, Boston University School of Public Health

    This is the first comprehensive textbook on social medicine that portrays its emergence and the ways in which capitalist development has produced and reproduced huge global inequalities that cause huge health disparities. The involvement of the authors in social medicine within the U.S. and in Latin America is the basis of their fertile perspective for comprehending the rise and demise of the capitalist globalization project and a hopeful basis for organizing a more humane and democratic global society.

    Christopher Chase-Dunn

    , Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute for Research on World-Systems, University of California, Riverside, USA

    In the United States, social medicine is generally marginalized or repressed, limiting public mobilization and knowledge on this front. Fortunately, Howard Waitzkin has worked tirelessly to change this situation. His recent book, Social Medicine and the Coming Transformation, written with Alina Pérez and Matthew Anderson, is sure to become a fundamental part of social medicine’s bibliography. It was first published in English in 2021, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and then in Spanish in 2023. Social Medicine and the Coming Transformation presents how clearly pandemics demonstrate the social determination of health and illness. Yet, the work’s scope reaches far beyond pandemics to encompass the most crucial societal barriers to health. It also describes a transformative path ahead, leading beyond the sickening social conditions imposed by the global capitalist system.

    Oscar Feo Istúriz, Professor of Health Sciences, University of Carabobo, Venezuela

    A provocative primer on social medicine – its histories, scope, arguments, and praxis. With an emphasis on critical contributions from Latin American Social Medicine, the authors ask physicians to grapple with how capitalism, imperialism, income inequality, racism, and sexism have harmed people’s health and health care systems – and present revolutionary proposals for imagining and creating a more equitable, post-capitalist, and healthier future.

    Nancy Krieger,

    Professor of Social Epidemiology, American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professor, Harvard University T. H. Chan School of Public Health, USA