American Sociological Association

Urban Hospitals as Anchor Institutions: Frameworks for Medical Sociology

Recent policy developments are forcing many hospitals to supplement their traditional focus on the provision of direct patient care by using mechanisms to address the social determinants of health in local communities. Sociologists have studied hospital organizations for decades, to great effect, highlighting key processes of professional socialization and external influences that shape hospital-based care. New methods are needed, however, to capture more recent changes in hospital population health initiatives in their surrounding neighborhoods. The authors describe three promising sociological frameworks for studying the changing hospital: (1) the study of professions, (2) social network analysis, and (3) community-based participatory research. The authors argue that future analyses of hospitals and health outcomes must move beyond the internal-external dichotomy to see hospitals as complex institutions that are increasingly entwined with communities and subject to changes in state regulation.

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Berkeley Franz, Daniel Skinner, Jonathan Wynn, and Kelly Kelleher