chapter  1
Constructing discourses about health and their social determinants
ByJanine Pierret
Pages 18

For a long time, medical sociology has, from a Parsonian perspective, oriented research toward the themes of the sick role and illness behaviour. In the 1970s, its outlook broadened as Parsonian frames of reference were reappraised by Berkanovic (1972), Gallagher (1976), Gerson (1976), Gerhardt (1978) and Alonzo (1984). These and other scholars directed very pertinent criticisms at this way of seeing illness as ‘deviance’ and doctors as agents of social control. They pointed out that this model, having arisen out of the study of acute diseases, could not account for the present-day reality of chronic illness. They added that it does not treat ill persons like actors who work out their own conceptions of illness and have an active part in medical care as they cope with their condition. Furthermore, the Parsonian perspective overlooks topics such as prevention, the variety of health-care structures and the role of a patient’s family and friends. It has also been alleged that this model is medicocentric, since it postulates the ill person’s obligation to seek medical care, specifically allopathic medical treatment.