What is Social Medicine?

Although there are many different descriptions of Social Medicine in the literature, all of these share at least five common principles:

1. Community

2. Political action

3. Organization of services

4. Prevention of disease

5. Investigation of the causes and distribution of disease.


In addition, the studies of social medicine are not only grounded in biology, but also in history, law, economics, moral philosophy, and other relevant fields of humanities and social sciences. (1)

Historically, the term “Social Medicine” is known to be first coined by the French physician-journalist Jules Guerin in the 1800s. At this time, the term meant extending Medicine’s insights to social problems. Since then, the definition of Social Medicine has evolved to be synonymous with public health, epidemiology, state medicine, community medicine, social pathology. The practice of social medicine has also evolved globally over the decades, with unique practicing styles in Latin America, South Africa, and China. In 1978, the WHO’s 1978 Alma Atta Declaration also embraced the core principles of social medicine. (1)


(1) D. Madison. Introduction to Social Medicine. 1993. UNC Chapel Hill.