Daniel Skinner et al., "The City and the Hospital: The Paradox of Medically Overserved Communities" (U Chicago Press, 2023)


An enduring paradox of urban public health is that many communities around hospitals are economically distressed and, counterintuitively, medically underserved. In The City and the Hospital two sociologists, Jonathan R. Wynn and Berkeley Franz, and a political scientist, Daniel Skinner, track the multiple causes of this problem and offer policy solutions.

Focusing on three urban hospitals—Connecticut’s Hartford Hospital, the flagship of the Hartford Healthcare system; the Cleveland Clinic, which coordinates with other providers for routine care while its main campus provides specialty care; and the University of Colorado Hospital, a rare example of an urban institution that relocated to a new community—the authors analyze the complicated relationship between a hospital and its neighborhoods. On the one hand, hospitals anchor the communities that surround them, often staying in a neighborhood for decades. Hospitals also craft strategies to engage with the surrounding community, many of those focused on buying locally and hiring staff from their surrounding area. On the other hand, hospitals will often only provide care to the neighboring community through emergency departments, reserving advanced medical care and long-term treatment for those who can pay a premium for it. In addition, the authors show, hospitals frequently buy neighborhood real estate and advocate for development programs that drive gentrification and displacement.

To understand how urban healthcare institutions work with their communities, the authors address power, history, race, and urbanity as much as the workings of the medical industry. These varied initiatives and effects mean that understanding urban hospitals requires seeing them in a new light—not only as medical centers but as complicated urban forces.

Michael O. Johnston, Ph.D. is a Assistant Professor of Sociology at William Penn University. He is the author of The Social Construction of a Cultural Spectacle: Floatzilla (Lexington Books, 2023) and Community Media Representations of Place and Identity at Tug Fest: Reconstructing the Mississippi River (Lexington Books, 2022). His general area of study is about the construction of identity and place. He is currently conducting research for his next project that looks at nightlife and the emotional labor that is performed by bouncers at bars and nightclubs. To learn more about Michael O. Johnston you can go to his website, Google Scholar, Twitter @ProfessorJohnst, or by email at johnstonmo@wmpenn.edu.

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Michael Johnston

Michael O. Johnston, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at William Penn University.

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