Introduction Since the time of Enlightenment, Western ideas of health have been dominated by the biomedical approach. The basis on which these opinions are founded is that an individual is not responsible for their illness and that the mind and body work separately from each other. Health, in the eyes of this approach can be deemed as simply the absence of disease. Part of the reason this vision of health has dominated so much, is that it’s practiced by the majority of the health professionals and is the staple of the care received in hospitals.
The aim of this assignment is to demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of this system, and to suggest the advantages that using a social model to view health could bring. Discussion Health, is a word that carries a broad spectrum of meanings, it is defined differently in all walks of life. Biomedical health although being the most recognised is not the only approach and has been called by Naidoo and Wills (200, p. 9) “a narrow view of health”. The social Model contrasts this approach. It focuses on the social and economic factors regarding health and looks at ways to prevent illness before it occurs.
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Even in the most affluent countries, people who are less well off have substantially shorter life expectancies (Marmot and Wilkinson, 2003), a social view on health would take this information into account, placing emphasis on improving the quality of life to increase life expectancy. Contrastingly the Biomedical method would look at a patient and prescribe necessary medication, although usually being effective in the short term, this would do nothing to stop the person getting ill again as they would return to the same unhealthy lifestyle or environment.
This could be seen as impersonal, but this scientific approach can be useful in many scenarios as it has been said by Pearson, Vaughan and FitzGerald(2005, p54) that “the overriding concern for the patient is for cure and control of his or her disease, and this model gives clear direction in this respect”. The Biomedical Model has strengths in the sense that illnesses are not always caused by environmental or lifestyle related factors. Rather than trying to explain the illness, it searches for a cure.
Biomedical science can give instant relief to people who are suffering or in pain, for people involved in accidents and emergency situations this approach is second to none. It accepts accidents are sometimes unavoidable and concentrates on restoring the individual to health in a direct manner. Discarding freak accidents the social model could prove useful. Wilkinson and Marmot(2005, p24) state “individuals turn to alcohol drugs and tobacco, suffer from their use, but it is influenced by the wider social setting” .
Upon taking this statement into account, it could be argued that the social model would have a greater effect in reducing the number of people turning to drugs or alcohol. The biomedical approach would examine the physiology of the situation in an attempt to understand why an individual might become dependent on a drug. The treatment might consist of giving the patient another drug to help them come off the substance they are using, but the social method would encourage support groups or the 12 step method that was first practiced by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
This method was originally brought about in the 70’s and involves patients admitting they are powerless to alcohol and coming to believe that a greater power can restore them to health. Although it had much success, it didn’t take account for those who did not believe in religion. Since then non twelve step programs have been brought about that focus on counselling patients on how to take control of their lives. Many centres that practice this method such as the Narconon Freedom Centre(NFC) claim to have a 70% success rate.
It is apparent that both biomedical and social models have their place in treating addicts and biomedical science could definitely benefit from the use of techniques from the social model in this case. Because the term health is subjective it can be defined differently. The Biomedical approach may deem someone who is disabled as unhealthy. The way they would aim to treat, for instance someone who has lost the use of their legs is to give them a wheelchair, if the person then became depressed they might give them medication to alleviate the symptoms of depression.
This scientific model is supported by evidence and does work in the sense that disabled people can get medication to decrease pain or equipment to make day to day life easier. The social model however approaches disability in an entirely different manner and Smart (2006-2007)states that “much of the prejudice and discrimination experienced by people with disabilities occurs not in spite of the Biomedical Model, but because of the Biomedical Model”. It known that disabled people can often be the target of discrimination and stereotyping, perhaps this has something to do with the picture of disability that has een painted by biomedical science. Because the biomedical approach has been at the forefront of health it is understandable that people are disposed to think in accordance of its views, but this doesn’t mean that they are always right. “The profession of medicine has, for centuries, been based on the two outcome paradigm of cure or death and vestiges of this paradigm are reflected in payment systems. Therefore, after medical stabilization, much of the funding is withdrawn, not taking into consideration the individual’s greatest needs (Yelin, 1992). This quote reiterates the point that the biomedical view may not always be right.
The social model in this case would take into account the full recovery of a person so they could return to a desirable quality of life. This is because the social model recognises the fact that if a person is affected by something it can impact on their life socially and economically, which in turn can cause numerous problems such as depression, effect on relationships, stress, and anxiety etc. To see a person as healthy as soon as there condition is stable is a very biomedical approach to the issue, it is possibly unwise to think that as soon as the patient is deemed stable they can return to a normal lifestyle.
The possible repercussions of this approach are that many patients will likely return and need more treatment soon after they have left. A potential benefit of using the health model when viewing a situation like the one previously mentioned, is that the patient might be able to receive services like marriage counselling. This is because the social model takes more account of the effects ill health can have on the patients’ social life.
If a patient is depressed this might also have an effect on the health of their friends and family meaning that they too may need healthcare for example a depressed patient may take their anger out by being abusive or violent to those around them. This is obviously not good for the family’s health so In the grand scheme of things a social approach may also help in keeping the patients family in good health. “The cultural identification of the individual is often ignored because the Biomedical Model is based only on biological, organic needs.
Psychiatric disabilities, which are highly dependent upon the environment of the individual, are not well-funded. Such environmental accommodations could render the individual highly functional (Wright, 1991). For people with psychiatric disabilities the biomedical approach may help to calm them down or nullify the effects of their illness. However little is done to improve their quality of life and this, it could be argued, seems almost de-humanizing. The model of health would prove useful in this situation by simply creating a nicer environment that will greatly assist the person to return to health.
If a return to health is not possible, this improvement in environment would still give the person a much more fulfilling life and help to put the families of patients’ minds at ease. Conclusion On reviewing and comparing the biomedical and social models of health, it can be seen that both models have strengths and weaknesses. Because the biomedical approach has been at the forefront of health people trust it because it’s what they are used too.. This approach is supported by a wealth of scientific evidence and knowledge and it can efficiently cure a wide range of illnesses or diseases.
However the biomedical model takes little into account for the environment of patients and how this can affect their health. The social model realises that health can be defined in ways other than simply “the absence of disease”. It also takes into account that all patients’ ideas of health are different and require different treatments. On conclusion it is clear that both models are invaluable and the best means for keeping people healthy and administering care would be through using a combination of both methods. Exact word count:1490 References Alcoholics Anonymous, n. d.
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