Sociological Concept On Health Care System In Australia

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Question :

Students should write an essay addressing the following topic:

Hierarchy and power are intrinsic to the current health care system in Australia. Discuss this statement by drawing on sociological theories and concepts. Discuss how this may impact on you as a health practitioner.


Students should read widely prior to completing the essay. This includes all required readings but should move beyond these to include other sources.

A bibliography is available on Learnline to help you with this process.

For any essay of this length you will need to include 9-11 references.

Majority of the references (7-9) should be based on journal articles, books, book chapters and peer reviewed papers. You can use websites but citations from Wikipedia are unacceptable.

Typically a good strategy is to use the set readings to cover the key sociological concepts and ideas and then if you are using an example issue (e.g. eating disorders or the effects of alcohol) do some further reading so that you have evidence relating to your chosen example.

Assessment Criteria:

The essay will be expected to address the following criteria:

  • Demonstrated understanding and application of appropriate sociological theories, concepts and perspectives
  • Application of sociological concepts in critical analysis.
  • Key concepts, debates and issues are identified and critical reflection is applied to the topic.
  • The topic is discussed in adequate depth and wide reading is evidenced in both the analysis and the examples utilised.
  • Evidence of wide reading
  • Essay reads well and is clear and concise
  • Adherence to academic conventions of essay writing (e.g. APA referencing; writing style)
  • Format must be consistent and legible.
    • Calibri, Arial or Helvetica font, size 12 with 1.5 line spacing and ample margins for written comments
  • Footer must contain your details: Surname, Initial, Unit Code, Assignment Name

e.g. Smith, J. HCS210 Assessment One

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Answer :

The purpose of the study is to analyze the features of the current healthcare system of Australia that is mainly characterised by power and hierarchy. Hence, the study focuses on analyzing various sociological concepts and theories in relation to the Australian health care system. The study focuses on the concept of sociology and its various approaches to healthcare. Further, it discusses the importance and application of the biomedical model. Next comes, the discussion on power and hierarchy in the Australian healthcare system. The issue in the system is identified and a recommendation is made accordingly. Lastly, the study discusses the way in which the discussion of the sociological theories has influenced me as healthcare practitioners. 

Sociology refers to the examination of the relationship between human and society and institutions. At the social level, sociology tests and defines matters such as law and crime wealth and poverty, discrimination and prejudice, education and school, urban community, business firms and social movements. Sociology focuses on analysing social life, which is an important area of healthcare. This is because; health condition of people and the treatment they get are highly determined by the social life they lead (Germov, 2014). According to Vimalananda et al. (2018), matters of sociology is diverse, ranging from family to the nation, corruption to religion, race division to social class to the mutual beliefs of a shared culture and from social constancy to a radical change in the entire society. Uniting the study of these different subjects, the purpose of sociology is to understand the way in which human consciousness and action both influence and are influenced by the surrounding social and cultural structures.  

Aveyard (2014) stated that various approaches of sociological analysis are known as perspectives. The perspective includes functionalism, conflict theory and symbolic interactionism. These sociological perspectives play major roles in health and social care. 

Functionalism advocates that appropriate medical care and good health are crucial for the suave functioning of society. Patients must exercise sick role for being considered as reasonably ill and being excused from their regular obligation (Deacon & McKay, 2015). As commented by Wilson Kenny & Dickson-Swift (2018) the conflict theory states that social inequality symbolises the quality of health and healthcare. People belong to the diverse background are more prone to different diseases and have limited access to adequate health care service. Partway to improve their earning, medical practitioners tried to manage the medical practice and to explain social issues as medical problems. In the words of Turner (2017), symbolic interactionism stipulates that health and illness are social constructions. Mental and physical conditions have hardly any unbiased reality; however, instead are regarded as ill or healthy conditions only if they are explained as such by society. Physicians control the situation to represent their medical knowledge and authority. 

Biomedical model is a major perspective of health that perceives health by means of a biological process within people. Although this perspective has huge importance in the research and practice of medicine, however, it does not capture the effect of power and hierarchy on health appropriately that is inherent in the current health care system of Australia (Deacon & McKay, 2015).

Willis & Elmer (2011) stated that it has several various tiers and types of services available to help people ranging from publichealth and preclusion through to usual practice and community health, hospital care, emergency health service, palliative care and rehabilitation. As per the viewpoint of Duckett & Willcox (2015), unlike the biopsychosocial model, the biomedical model does not perceive diagnosis that influences treatment of service users to be the outcome of intercession between patient and doctor. Mesquita et al. (2017) commented that this model puts emphasis on virtuously biological factors and eliminates environmental, social and psychological influences. The model is considered as the main model since the 19th century used by medical professionals in diagnosing disease. As per this model, health establishes the freedom from pain, disease or defect, making the general human condition healthy.

It emphasises physical processes including biochemistry, physiology and pathology of disease and does not consider the role of individual subjectivity or social factors. The biomedical model is a replacement for a human biologic system or a human being, which can be applied for understanding normal and unusual activities from gene to phenotype and to offer a source for therapeutic or preventive intervention in diseases (Schachtschneider et al. 2015). 

As argued by Mossialos et al. (2018), the biomedical model ignores the notion that illness and heath are socially constructed and relative. It considers health issues as individual and avoids the social factors, which may lead to illness and different diseases. It does not focus on prevention, but on treatment and provides excessive power to medical experts. 

The healthcare system in Australia is quite complex, and it includes many funders and the healthcare providers. The healthcare system seems to have several tiers of service that offer varied careservices and are focused on delivering the best valueto the patients. Mossialos et al. (2016) commented that the Australian Healthcare system offers the best service for being highly professional and being well managed and organized (Duckett & Willcox, 2015). The healthcare system of Australia has a strict hierarchical structure and has an effective distribution of power that helps in the proper management and delivery of the service. The hierarchy consists of not only the doctors, nurses but also the administrative staffs, lower level employees, fundraisers, caregivers, volunteers and others. 

The Australian Healthcare System offers a wide range of medical service and some of them include the population health, prevention through the general practice and the community health, emergency health service and hospital care along with rehabilitation and the palliative care (Mossialos et al. 2016). In Australia, the three levels of the government are responsible for offering universal health care to the federal, state, territory and local. The federal government is responsible for offering funding and indirect support to the state health care by subsidizing the primary care providers assisted with Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and offer funds for the state services. It has a limited role in direct service delivery. Based on the hierarchy, the power is distributed equally among the different constituents of the hierarchy.          

Vimalananda et al. (2018) commented that half of the federal governmentsupports the mental health and the people with the disability, while the rest of the support goes as payment towards the states and offer allowances to the caregivers and the subsidies are offered through the caregivers and also through the MBS and PBS. The state government possess the power for the arrangement of the specialist and the acute mental care services. The General Practices (GP) forms an important part of the Australian Healthcare Hierarchy. As per the reports offered, there were more than 100,000 medical practitioners in the year 2015 in Australia. 88,000 of medical practitioners were employed in medicines (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018). The specialist delivers outpatient care in the private practice or in the public hospital. Patients are able to select their own GP, but for receiving the MBS subsidy, they needed to be referred by GP (, 2018).  

The Australian Healthcare system is renowned for offering the best service. The hierarchy division and the proper distribution has made it easier for the GP and the medical professionals to deliver the best service to the patients. The government of the country sits at the top of the hierarchy and wields much power. The Australian government had made arrangement for the MBS, PBS and also funds the hospitals that are owned by the states and the territories. The residential care series are some other important activities that are funded by the Government to ensure that the medical care is extended to people of different needs (Australian Institute of Health, 2012).The Department of Veteran Affairs is responsible for offering the best care to the women.The government additionally reserves help for and coordination of night-time administrations, and there is provision for the 24-hour service (Wilson, Kenny& Dickson-Swift, 2018). The funding offered by the Federal government to the public hospitals include the base level funding that includes growth set at 45 per cent assessed by independent Hospital Pricing Authority. 

The hospitals or the healthcare organization are the main part of the hierarchy. When discussing the hierarchy and the power of the healthcare system, it is important to consider the hierarchy of the hospitals (Glickman et al. 2007). In the hospital hierarchy system, the Senior Medical Officers (SMO) occupies the top-most level in the hierarchical structure in the Australian hospitals. SMO either act as the general or the non-specialist officers in the staff-grade positions. These people work in the supervision level and act in the field of the jurisdiction. The other members include Visiting Medical Offers (VMO) who offers service in both the private and the general public hospitals (Alkhenizan & Shaw, 2011).The Principal House Officer possesses certain responsibilities of treating the patients. However, their position is similar to that of the registered caregivers. It is important to note that some aspects of the Australian Healthcare system are the same nationwide, but there are others that may vary based on the different states. Kirby et al. (2018) commented that the hierarchy and the power of the healthcare system often vary based on the states and the cities.

The division of the hierarchy and the power of the Australian Healthcare system can be explained better with the help of the theoretical perspective. As per the functional theoretical approach, the division of the power is based on the offering good health and appropriate medical care which are critical for the smooth working of the organization and delivering the best care to the patients. For making the patients perform the ‘sick-role', it is essential to maintain the patient and the physician relationship (Ell, 2018). The patients need to follow the instructions offered by the physicians. In the Australian healthcare system, the local hospitals are responsible for offering proper advice to the patients, and it is the responsibility of the patients to abide the advice and the suggestions offered to them and ensure they get the proper treatment and lead a healthy life.  

Stephan & Stephan (2013) commented as per the findings of the conflict theory, the quality of the health and the quality of the healthcare are affected are affected due to social inequality. It has been seen that the people from the poor economic background are more likely to deprive of the proper health care services. The hierarchy of the healthcare system includes the place of the Federal and the State Government who are responsible for the funding of the healthcare so that the care can be extended to the people from different social and the economic background (Almost et al. 2016).The government are responsible for offering universal health care to the federal, state, territory and local. The federal government is responsible for offering funding and indirect support to the state health care by subsidizing the primary care. It has a limited role in direct service delivery. 

From the entire discussion, it is found that Australian heath care system consists of a range of healthcare activities and power and hierarchy at the core of the system. These two concepts are represented through the application of various theories and concepts. It is found that inequality in the access of healthcare service for the deprived people is a huge issue in the system and hence, must be tackled through proper planning and initiatives. The three-level government provides universal health care to state, federal, local and territory.50% of federal supports individual with a disability and mental health problems. Hospitals are the key part of the hierarchy, and the senior medical officers are at the top position of the structure. The theories and approaches that help in understanding the health care system and its issues include conflict theory, functionalism and symbolic interactionism. The functionalism supports that effective health care and good health are the strongest pillars of any society. Hence, identifying and overcoming the issue in the Australian health care system is essential for ensuring the effectiveness of the healthcare services provided to the people. 

Heath inequality and equity issues are evident in the health care system of the nation. Although there has been a significant improvement in the health care of the nation as assessed by reducing mortality rate, increased life expectancy rate, more effective disease management system and others, these services have not been distributed equally among all the people. For instance, the life expectancy rate of the deprived people is 70 years while the life expectancy of people lives in developed areas is around 84 years. Moreover, there is inequality in the quality of healthcare service received by rich and poor people. Thus, it has become critical to encourage equality in the healthcare service offered to every group people through spreading awareness, conducting different health campaigns, increasing the number of hospitals and health care centres in the disadvantaged areas, so that the people of those areas can equally access to the necessary health care service they need. The conflict theory emphasises the inequality. It can be seen that the evidence of inequalities in health care and health is dramatic and vast. However, the biomedical model explains that medical practitioners control the practice of healthcare for explaining various social problems. This is because they consider themselves as the experts having the ability to do it and they do it for financial gains. However, to reduce inequality in healthcare offered to the different groups of people, it is necessary to offer voluntary health care services to the deprived people, as they are not financially strong.

As a healthcare practitioner, I am highly influenced by the theories and concepts related to sociology with respect to the healthcare system in Australia. I have gained significant knowledge regarding the way in which sociological theories are connected to health care and the way health condition is influenced by social factors such as food quality, sanitation and consumption of clean water. This is the reason for lower life expectancy and increased mortality rate of the deprived people. After going through the analysis and understanding on the reasons of inequality in healthcare, I am ready to provide volunteer services to the people, who live in the disadvantaged community, so that they can also live a healthy life. I can arrange weekly campaigns for spreading awareness about different diseases among them. Thus, I can help to preventthe harmful diseases from spreading in the society.

In conclusion, it can be said that Power and hierarchy are at the core of the Australian healthcare system. Health inequality is a major issue in the system that is discussed applying various approaches of sociology such as the biomedical model, functionalism, and conflict theory and so on. Thee sociological concepts provide a deep insight into the relationship between social and health problems in Australia. Hence, to overcome the issues in the healthcare system, make it rigorous and equal for all the people irrespective of their living standards, effective policies need to be developed.