This model of health. This essay will also outline

This essay will
be outlining and evaluating the biomedical model of health. This
essay will also outline opposing theories and models which have
highlighted weaknesses in the biomedical model of health. These
theories and models will then be evaluated. In conclusion to this
essay, there will be an evaluation of the biomedical model of health.

The World
Health Organisation define health in the following way:

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is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not
merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.
(WHO, 2017).
The world
health organisation offers a holistic approach to health including;
intellectual, psychological, mental, emotional, social and physical
health. Intellectual health focuses on an individual’s learning,
thinking and capacity to make judgements. Psychological health
factors into an individual’s emotional and intellectual health.
Mental health consists of the ability to think clearly and coherently
while coping with everyday life. Emotional health is described as an
individual’s ability to recognise their own feelings and express them
appropriately. Social health involves an individual’s relationship
with other people in society and is related to socioeconomic factors
such as education, employment and housing. To be physically healthy,
you must be mentally and emotionally healthy as the mind and the body
are linked (WHO, 2017).

The biomedical
model of health is a scientific approach to health and illness,
describing disease as a result of biological factors alone. The
biomedical model is the most dominant in the western world, and
explains each illness has one cause, and once that cause is treated
or removed, the individual is healthy again. Within this model,
doctors hold the power to treat or cure illnesses or diseases which
are seen as a breakdown in the human body. The biomedical model of
health also contains the medical model of disability which focuses on
disability in terms of the impairment that it gives an individual.
The biomedical model of health has been used and is still being used
to save lives every day and is conducted by highly trained and
competent individuals. This model also provides a structural model of
health. However, the social model of health offers opposing views to
the biomedical model of health which suggests that health can be
defined objectively, ignores wider social conditions that cause
illness such as poverty and poor quality of food. It also suggests
that resources are best used to improve medical science, new drugs
and medical technology rather than health education and preventive
medicine (Walsh, 2004).

construction is a major research topic in medical sociology. Social
construction offers significant knowledge and understanding of the
social dimensions affecting health and illness. The social
constructionist approach to illness not only focuses on disease,
which is seen as the biological condition, but also to illness which
is seen as the social element of the condition. Gussow and Tracy
(1968) were the first to explain stigmatised illnesses, as they
researched leprosy, giving an insight to the affects that were
created by the stigma of an illness or disease. Researchers went on
to examine other illnesses which had a stigma with it such as; AIDS,
mental illnesses and sexually transmitted diseases. The sigma
attached to AIDS was seen to limit the access to treatment and affect
relationships and an individual’s identity (Epstein, 1996). In
contrast to the biomedical model of health, which assumes that
disease is purely a result of biological factors, and irrelevant to
social factors, social constructionists emphasise how the presence of
disease and illness is shaped by cultural and social systems (Berger
& Luckman, 1966). Social constructionists explain how illnesses
and diseases change from time to time and place to place. For
example, homosexuality was seen as a mental illness and a crime in
the UK and it was treated by therapists using extreme methods such as
vomiting induced drugs and electric shocks. These methods were
entirely ineffective. Although the legalisation of homosexuality came
in the UK in 1967, the World Health Organisation did not update it in
their classification of mental illness until 1992. This example shows
that illnesses and diseases can change over time and may not be
considered illnesses at all in different places, therefore health can
not be objectively defined as the biomedical model of health suggests
(Burton, 2015).

The social
model of health offers opposing views to the biomedical model of
health. The social model of health looks at how society and
environmental factors affect our health and well-being, such as;
social class, occupation, education, income, poverty and poor diet.
The aim of the social model of health is to resolve the factors
above. The description of health in the social model of health,
explains that the health of an individual is based on social factors,
not medical criteria. The priority of the social model of health is
to solve the problems, and laws have been put in place to reduce the
risk social factors have on individuals lives. For example, in 1906
local councils were told to provide free school meals for poor
children, and in 1907 school medical examinations were also given to
all children. After that in 1908, the old age pension was introduced
also. The social model of health sees illness following a pattern
linked to the factors stated above, which opposes the views of the
biomedical model of health which sees illness and disease as striking
at random (Conrad & Baker 2010). The biomedical model of health
states that only doctors and other health care professionals can use
the model, whereas the social model of health is flexible to a wide
range of people can relate to it. The biomedical model also focuses
on diagnosis, cure and treatment whereas the social model of health
gives preference to the prevention of illnesses and diseases (Anon,

contribution to the social model of health incudes improvements in
public health. A Marxist doctor named Thomas McKeown (1979) explained
his historical study on mortality rates in England and Wales, and how
disease rates declined before the discovery of vaccines. McKeown also
put forth the view throughout the 1950’s to the 1980’s that the
growth of population in the industrialised world was not due to life
saving treatments in the medicine field but instead to the
improvement of lives and living standards since the 1700’s. In the
early 19th century, growing towns in Britain resulted in
overcrowding, poor housing in bad weather conditions causing illness
and disease. In 1884, the first public health act was put in place,
followed by the vaccination of smallpox which was compulsory in 1853,
with improvements in hospital hygiene becoming regulated a year
later. The public health act was updated in 1875. The studies of
McKeown identified that diseases were not declining by vaccines or
other biological resources, but instead were as a result of better
living conditions and environmental factors, arguing that diseases
were fundamentally caused by environmental factors (Ogden, 2002).

Marxists agree
with the social model of health, emphasising that poverty caused by
living in an unequal society is what causes illnesses and disease.
Marxists believe that poor people are exploited by rich people and
the cause of illness is poverty. For example, if an individual is
living in poverty, its stated that they do not have essentials to
live healthily, as they will not have the money for food or shelter.
Marxists argue that doctors and other health care professionals are
not there to make individuals as healthy as they can be but instead
make individuals healthy to a minimum requirement to work, so those
individuals can work again and make money for the ruling class.
Marxists express that dealing with social factors such as warm
housing free from damp, is more important than the priorities of the
biomedical model of health (Kirby et al, 2000).

Ivan Illich is
another critic of the biomedical model of health, in 1975 proposed a
theory that modern medicine has caused more damage to an individual’s
health opposed to curing or improving the illness or disease. Illich
suggested there are three types of iatrogenesis; clinical, social and
cultural. Clinical iatrogenesis arises from the medical treatment an
individual receiving making the problem worse, not better or if new
conditions are created from the treatment. Ilich argued that the side
effects of treatment caused more ill health. An example of clinical
iatrogenesis would be when lymphedema occurs as a result of breast
cancer surgery. Social iatrogenesis occurs as medical treatments
grow, an artificial need is created, meaning more individuals rely on
the medical field. An example of this is an individual going into
hospital at the end of their life, instead of staying at home. This
follows on to cultural iatrogenesis, where individuals feel unable to
cope without dependence on the medical profession. An example of this
would be seeking medical attention and feeling a lack of ability to
manage minor illness such as a stomach bug. As the biomedical model
of health says doctors are experts and their scientific knowledge is
the only way to be cured, Illich questions the authority of this by
stating medicines cause more illnesses and in turn create a
dependence on the medical professionals (Giddens & Griffiths,

The biomedical
model of health has its critics such as the social model of health
and Ivan Illich (1975) who suggested medicines make individuals more
unhealthy apposed to curing or treating illnesses. However,
functionalist Talcott Parsons (1951) supports the biomedical model of
health’s view that doctors are the experts. Parsons created a concept
of ‘The Sick Role’. The sick role was created to prevent individuals
faking symptoms of illnesses that can not been seen such as mental
health illnesses, which becomes problematic for society. Parsons
agreed that individuals have the right to be sick however they need
to actively try to get better, this is when Parsons created the
doctors sick note. The sick role firstly needs to the distinguish who
is well and unwell. Doctors are the main group responsible for
deciding this which is why there is a patient-practionier dynamic in
society, giving doctors a role in social control and maintaining the
functioning of society. Secondly, the individual who is sick has
rights and obligations to adhere to, for example, the individuals are
excused from their roles in society and not blamed however, they must
see being sick as undesirable and seek and cooperate with treatments
given by doctors to get better. This role assumes that individuals
will voluntary accept the sick role. Individuals may not want to
comply with the sick role, a reason for this could be due to the
stigma attached to some illnesses, for example mental health is
stigmatised in society and individuals may feel shame admitting they
are affected by this. Although in more current times this is being
challenged as people in society who have social power, such as
celebrities are normalising mental health issues. Also, individuals
may not give up social obligations, for example a single parent may
not be able to be relieved from duties from work as they have the
responsibility of providing for their child financially (Heidarnia &
Heidarnia, 2016). Although the social model of health is in
opposition to the biomedical model of health, they do have some
similarities. Both models of health have the aim of making an
individual healthy and improving their quality of life. The
biomedical model of health uses medical knowledge to treat and cure
individuals who are sick, whereas the social model of health uses
holistic health remedies such as reflexology. However, as the
biomedical model suggests, an individual should trust a doctor and
agree to their treatment plan. The social model of health gives the
individual the independence to chose their own way of becoming
healthier, which is more empowering.

In conclusion
to this essay, it is evident that the biomedical model of health is
the most dominant model of health and the main opposition for this
model is the social model of health. The biomedical model of health
does not take in account factors which do affect health such as
social conditions leading to illness and disabilities that do not
have a physical impairment and mental health illnesses. It would
appear that healthcare systems are adapting in way that provides a
more holistic approach, as health remedies such as reflexology and
reiki are now available on the national health service. However, the
biomedical model of health has been used to save many lives and is
conducted by a team of highly trained and competent individuals. The
biomedical model of health has increased the knowledge of causes and
treatment regarding ill health and helps to prevent illnesses because
of this knowledge.