Choose one of the case studies from the list provided on MyLO under Assessment task 2. You are required to analyse the social factors that contribute towards individual understandings and experiences of health and illness, as presented in the case study. This will involve using selected sociological concepts and theories that you have been introduced to during this unit. You are expected to undertake research beyond the unit materials, and use a range of sociological books and journal articles. A recommended list that provides a useful starting point can be found at the end of this unit outline. In approaching this assessment task, you should not employ a health literacy perspective, diagnose the health condition, or pass judgement on the individuals within the case study. Write an essay that analyses the case study by: 1. Identifying and defining the relevant sociological concepts 2. Describing and critically analysing the issues arising in the case study from a sociological perspective 3. Briefly describing how the sociological approach you have used differs from a typical medical science approach 4. Briefly describing why it is useful and important for health care workers to be aware of sociological perspectives
In conducting your sociological analysis, you should choose three to five relevant sociological concepts or theories to focus on that you feel are the most pertinent and relevant. The unit outline contains further information on the expectations associated with this assessment task – it is imperative that you consult it.
Case study 1: Rhonda Rhonda is 26 years old. She is in the final year of her education degree, and works as a casual at her family’s take-away shop. Of late, she has been experiencing a loss of energy, diarrhoea and abdominal pain, which she has put down to her recent over-indulgence on alcohol. However, when the symptoms persisted and she started to miss her university classes, she decided to see her doctor. Her doctor asked her many questions about her lifestyle and her menstrual cycle. After this questioning and a quick rectal examination, the doctor suggested it was stress and period pains that were causing her problems. Rhonda suggested to her doctor that these were not the causes, as nothing had significantly changed in her life. Nevertheless, the doctor told her to take some time off work, and to minimise her social activities. Rhonda felt that she could not afford time off work, as this income helped to finance the cost of her studies as well as some social activities. She also felt an obligation to keep working, as this helped her family to successfully manage a small business. Rhonda ignored her doctor’s advice and continued with her daily living. While she managed at first, things started to go very badly. When at university one day, she found she could not control her bowels and, as she was running out of her class, her bowels opened up. While no-one witnessed this event, she felt embarrassed and ashamed. For the rest of the week, she could not face leaving her home or her university friends. Rhonda found herself retreating from all social interaction, just in case something happens, and she fell behind in her studies. Two weeks after the incident at university, she found that her symptoms were still not under control, and she visited a different doctor. The doctor noted her history, and enquired how she was managing. After a rectal examination, her doctor noted nothing unusual, but noted it could be a variety of things that could only be confirmed, or ruled out, with further testing. Rhonda was then sent for a variety of blood tests, followed by urine and stool testing. This testing then lead to further tests, including a colonoscopy, CT scans, and barium enema x-rays. During this time, she found that her symptoms were on the wane and she started to participate socially again, but she felt compelled to keep going for the tests – her doctor insisted. Rhonda was unsure if she could afford all the testing on her limited income, but these were bulk billed as she had a health care card from Centrelink. Furthermore, the constant testing made her feel anxious and stressed, particularly given the need to balance study (which she was now well behind in), work, prepare for her final practicum placement, and help care for her much younger siblings (aged from 4 to 11). Eventually, she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis; inflammation of the large bowel and rectum. Rhonda was shocked to discover this, as she had been feeling better and with no problems. Her doctor gave her a free sample of, and a prescription for, corticosteroids (steroids) for when she had symptoms. Rhonda was HGA138: Society, Culture and Health Page 2 of 5 informed these would reduce inflammation. When Rhonda questioned the side effects of these pharmaceutical drugs, she was told the steroid was in small doses and, due to her age, it was unlikely she would experience any side effects. The doctor also indicated that some other pharmaceutical drugs could be useful if the corticosteroid medication did not work. She was also told that, in severe cases, surgery is required but at this stage, she should not concern herself with that. Rhonda was uncomfortable with this information. She was not comfortable taking steroid medications and feared that she could need surgery. Rhonda decided to look into alternative therapies. A long-time family friend, Richard, was a naturopath. He suggested that Rhonda make some changes to her diet including regularly eating yoghurt containing probiotics, and taking fish oil tablets and an aloe vera gel daily. Rhonda was more comfortable with these changes. She also started keeping a diary of her food intake and bowel movements to monitor her condition.