Social Variables and Health Outcomes. There are many different points of view on what causes certain health-related outcomes to occur. When sociologists are trying to determine the cause of health-related diseases they take into account different social variables. These social variables include, class, gender and race. One’s social class can say a lot about their health and why certain outcomes happen more often than not. Poverty is one of the biggest explanations as to why these outcomes occur. If individuals don’t have the means to be able to lead a healthy lifestyle then they will continue to engage in unhealthy habits no matter the cost.
Poor housing environments and lack of resources are another issue that affects the lower class. If individuals are unable to have access to health and educational resources, they don’t have the tools needed in order to help them change. Culturally, lower social classes tend to lead an unhealthier lifestyle that includes eating a diet higher in fatty foods, use of tobacco products and lack of regular exercise compared to the upper class. A result of a poor diet and lack of exercise is obesity, which leads to illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. Heavy alcohol use which is associated with liver disease is also another trend seen in the lower class. This combination of unhealthy habits helps to explain why the lower class is more susceptible to certain health-related outcomes.
Gender is another variable that can help sociologists predict different health outcomes. Women have been known to typically live longer lives than males. One of the reasons for this is the type of work that males are involved in compared to females. For many years’ men have been known to be the financial supporters of a household, while women tend to the family’s needs. With this responsibility can come and increase in stress levels and mental health issues for men if they feel they aren’t meeting their expectations.
Women who do work are typically less likely to find themselves in dangerous working occupations and environments, like construction sites and armed forces, whereas men aren’t (Larkin, 2011). These certain occupations can lead to exposures of different substances that can lead to health-related diseases. Women also tend to lead a healthier lifestyle than men and are more conscious when choosing the types of food, they eat. This is primarily due to the fact that women care more about their appearances than men do and/or have more time to devote to their health.
Sociologists also use race to help predict why certain health related outcomes occur. Many of these health diseases among the different races can be traced back to genetics. For instance, some races are more prone to heart disease, cancer and diabetes than others (Larkin, 2011). From a genetic standpoint this would help to understand why families of these races continue to have the same type of illness and disease. Being already predisposed to certain health issues can help sociologists understand the statistics if one does or does not develop the disease. Understanding that some races are affected by illness and disease more so than others is a valuable asset in predicting health related outcomes.
Heart Disease and Health Outcomes. Heart disease can be very hard to define because there are many different variables and conditions that lead to it. Ultimately, heart disease occurs when the amount of blood flow to the heart is affected and/or a buildup of plaque has occurred in the arteries (About Heart Disease, 2019). Heart disease can be caused by abnormal heartbeats, heart defects, a weakened heart muscle, and other infections or diseases. Examples of heart disease include heart failure, heart attack, stroke, and/or aneurysm. Class, gender, and race can all have an influence on heart disease.
Class, is a social variable that can have an impact on health outcomes in people. A difference in income has been shown to affect some individuals in either developing heart disease or not. A nationwide study found in the Diabetes Care Journal found that individuals in the two lowest income quintiles had two to three times higher risk of cardiovascular events and death than those in the highest income quintile (Rawshani, Svensson, Rosengren, et al., 2015). This is primarily due to the fact that individuals with a higher income are able to pay for better health care which covers screenings and regular doctor visits to prevent heart disease from occurring.
Education is another part of class that has an impact on why heart disease can occur in people. Education is single handedly the greatest tool one can have when it comes to their own health. Understanding how diet, exercise, and genetics can play into the development of heart disease, provides the opportunity to try and prevent it before it happens. Those who aren’t fortunate enough to have a college education or resources available to them are more likely to develop some form of heart disease.
When it comes to gender, both males and females are susceptible to heart disease. In the United States in 2017, heart disease was responsible for killing 1 out of 4 women and 1 out of 5 men (About Heart Disease, 2019). While these numbers show that men have a slightly higher probability of developing heart disease than women do, the risks are there for both genders. Recent research has found that the effects of high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and overweight and obesity is similar between women and men when it comes to heart disease outcomes (Appelman, van Rijn, Ten Haaf, et al., 2015).
Lastly, race is another notable variable for heart disease related outcomes. Heart disease is so prevalent that all walks of live have a chance of developing some form of it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2015 whites and blacks had the highest number of deaths from heart disease while American Indians and Alaskan Natives had the lowest (About Heart Disease, 2019). Race is also closely linked to an individual’s socioeconomic status which can contribute to the cause of heart disease, like lack of education and poor health habits due to poverty.
Certain races also lack the amount of resources available to them, such as health care and insurance which makes it difficult to detect and treat heart disease. Language and health literacy can also be a barrier in minority populations. English is not everyone’s first language which can prevent individuals from seeking care if they fear the language barrier. Sociologists can take this data and information to help them show what races are affected by heart disease more so than others.
Government Intervention. Many different government programs have been created over the years to assist in the intervention of heart disease. One program that was created to primarily help individuals who lack education and resources was the Million Hearts. The Million Hearts program was created by the CDC, and other partners to work with health care professionals to optimize care, keep people healthy and reach priority populations (Million Hearts, 2019).
Through educational tools and action guides the Million Hearts program is helping to improve heart disease one person at a time. By working closely within the communities of their target populations they are able to reach those who need help and couldn’t get it otherwise. The American Heart Association also teamed up with the Million Hearts program and launched a collaboration to partner with state health departments and local partners to decrease heart disease in their states and communities. This program has clearly been working hard to make an impact on less privileged populations and communities to try and prevent heart disease from occurring.
Another organization ran by the government to help improve heart disease in women is the WISEWOMAN program which stands for, Well-Integrated Screening and Evaluation for WOMen Across the Nation. This program focuses on serving low income, uninsured and underinsured women ages 40 to 64 years (Wisewoman, 2019). Those who qualify are able to receive free screenings, health coaching and educational tools on the prevention of heart disease. With heart disease being one of the leading causes of death among women, this program is very beneficial in trying to put an end to it.
The Office of Minority Health is an organization under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that was established to help improve the health of minority groups. Heart disease is among one of the chronic illnesses that the Office of Minority Health addresses. Through policies, programs, data collection, and practices this organization is working towards achieving health equity among all minority groups (Office of Minority Health, 2019). Without organizations like the Office of Minority Health, sociologists would have a hard time finding data on how certain illnesses, like heart disease, affect racial and ethnic minority populations.
Heart disease is very serious and one of the biggest contributors of deaths among people. While sociologists can’t narrow it down to one specific cause they can look at sociological factors, such as class, gender, and race to assist them. Understanding the relationship between these factors and heart disease can help them to predict certain health related factors. Sociologists can also utilize government organizations specifically created for each factor to see how they are trying to improve heart disease prevention and outcomes.