Unit 7 P2 AND M1 explain different sociological approaches to health and ill health and assess the biomedical and socio-medical models of health
Unit 7, P2 & M1
There are different approaches to health and ill health in sociology, and these include Functionalism, Marxism, Feminism and Interactionism.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1974 defines positive health as a state of complete physical mental, social, spiritual and well-being not merely the absence of disease. The holistic approach is based on addressing the individual’s physical, social, emotional and spiritual health needs.
The functionalist approach to health and ill health
In the functionalist model, Parsons argued that illness is a form of deviance that disturbs the social function of a society; within the functionalist approach to health it studies the relationship between a sick individual and the society as a whole. Parsons stated that for the society to function efficiently the members of the society must be free from illness and must be of well health. Functionalists argued that stability and cooperation are very crucial for a society to function efficiently; functionalists explain that through the process of socialisation we learn our society’s general norms, values and social roles. An example of this is, saying “thank you or please” these are some of the values that are treasured within societies, and an example of a social role would be a grandmother fulfilling the role as a grandmother. For the grandmother to fulfil her role, the individual has to look after the grandchildren so that the parents of the children can go work, therefore allowing them to fulfil their role within the society as a doctor, nurse or teacher.
Parsons, explain that illness prevents a person from fulfilling their role within the society, and this is seen as a form of deviance as mentioned at the beginning. An individual who is sick will be regulated by a mechanism of social control, for example a doctor. The doctor is the one who affirms that the individual’s health status has changed from being healthy to sick. By having this sick status, this allows the individual to take time of work, therefore relieving the individual of his/her social role and ascribing him/her a sick role, the individual will maintain the sick role until he/she is well to perform their social role in the society. Parson believed that individuals who are sick break the structure of society because they are not viewed as positive contributors. In addition sick people are allowed to refrain from participating in events, work, social activities, and other aspects of society because of their illness. This shows us that functionalists view health as a requirement of a functional society; this is because if a certain amount of people are ill society cannot function.
The Marxist approach to health and ill health
Marxist theory is concerned with the way in which the dominant economic structure of society determines inequality and power, as well as shaping the relations upon which the major social institutions are built. https://www.palgrave.com/bilton/pdfs/0333_945719_14_cha13.pdf: last accessed 31 Mar. 14. This suggests that the capitalist are the dominants of society therefore, this causes inequality within society. As a result within health and social care, the capitalist manufacture unhealthy cheap foods, which individuals from lower classes are more likely to consume due to lack of education and money. Moreover, the individuals are more likely to develop health problems such as diabetes or heart disease as well as obesity or malnourishment. If the individuals become ill, the individuals will require going to the hospital which is also run by the capitalist. This shows us how health inequalities are among the capitalist and the worker; in addition it’s also showing us how the workers are oppressed by the ruling class. Furthermore, health and social care professionals such as doctors, they are seen as working agents. This is because these individuals make sure that the proletariat are fit to go back into society to work.
This is a preview of the whole essay
The feminist approach to health and ill health
Regarding the feminist approach to health and ill health, they focus on the inequality between men and women in health care professions. Feminist believe that female individuals experience discrimination because of their gender, also they point out the lack of power that women have in their relationship with health care professionals. In addition, feminists believe that the medical system is dominated by men and men tend to receive better health care treatment than women; for example a G.P is more likely to prescribe pills and medication for woman instead of the actual psychological treatment. Furthermore, women become ill more than men; this is due to being discriminated like at the work place. Moreover, being discriminated against can lead to various health problems such as depression. Marxists feminist believe that the capitalist society is mostly dominated by men. In addition, Marxists feminist believe the Marxist view on how healthcare makes sure that capitalism has a healthy work force and therefore works to perpetuate capitalism. Furthermore, Marxists feminist also point out that healthcare helps with the production of the next generation of workers through medical care.
The interactionism approach to health and ill health
The interactionism approach to health and ill health focuses on what occurs in a person’s life. Their main concern is the process in which lead to individuals defining themselves of ill health, it is about the interaction between professional and patients discussing how ill the individual is, and if the individual should be signed off from work, and also the impact on the person’s self-image and their social contribution to society is the individual is labelled ill. The approach suggests that if individuals demonstrate some deviant behaviour, it’s more likely that the individual will be labelled some form of name. Also by being labelled can influence the individual’s behaviour. An example of this would be an individual with ADHD, society may have a label the disease as uncontrollable, which in turn may make the individual not try to control his/her impulsiveness.
Interactionism views health and illness as a theoretical approach whereas it is concerned on the processes that may lead the individual to define themselves of ill health, the interaction between the health professional and the patient on agreeing how ill one is also the impact on the individual’s self image and the social contribution if one is labelled as ill. When the interactionsts studies the relationships between health and illness it does not consider the institutions and structures however considers the complexity of relationships of people such as the family and peers and the links with professional services as they believe that the relationships play a major role in medical diagnosis in influencing whether the individual views themselves as of ill health or of well health. There has been several criticisms on the Interactionist approach towards health as some theorists suggest that the approach focuses more on the social relationships than concentrating on the causes of health which may include the explanation and factors that contribute to ill health such as pollution, stress, society and poverty. The main objective of the interactionsts is studying health, impact and the consequences that illness can have on the individual’s life.
Within health and social care, there are two main models of health and these are; the biomedical and the social medical model of health. On this assignment, I am going assess these two models, I will look at their strengths and weaknesses. I will look at how both of these models relate to the NHS.
The biomedical model approach to health and illness identifies health and illness as “the absence of disease”. This shows us how the model only focuses on the biological factors. The model does not take into consideration of the psychological, environmental and social influences regarding the individual’s illness. Due to the biomedical model only focusing on the structure and functioning of the body, this is seen as the dominant Western scientific approach to medicine for health care professionals to diagnose and treat diseases and illness within Western countries. The positive aspect of the biomedical model is that it has advanced techonology to help with serious biological illnesses. The other benefit of the bio medical is that it identifies and treats the sick resulting in health restoration.
The negative aspect of the biomedical model of health is that it does not take into account some of the factors that contribute to the illness, for example it does not look at the social history of the individual, nor the psychological history of the individual. Within the model they only analyse and search for the biophysical or genetic malfunctions. An example regarding how the model does not look at the social side of the illness is an individual with asthma. The model will only look at how it can cure or reduce the illness, which is giving the individual an inhaler to help with breathing. The model will not look at what triggered the asthma, this maybe me the pets’ hair e.g dogs, or smoke or pollution. By failing to remove these barriers for the individual to become well, the individual will continue to have asthma attacks due to the lifestyle or environment they reside. This links to the Marxist theory. It links to Marxism because the individual with asthma maybe be poor and less educated. Therefore the individual may not know of the triggers of asthma. The individual will continue to go to the doctors where he/she will have to keep on paying for his/her medication e.g inhaler.
This links to Marxism as the individual is being exploited by the capitalists because he/she has to keep on paying for the medication which can be solved by looking at the social or environmental factors of the illness. In addition, the biomedical model of health also relates to the functionalist approach of health, this is because it specifies that health is the absence of disease and within the functionalists approach it is seen as dysfunctional to ill with the society, this is because the individual cannot make a positive contribution to their society whilst being sick. Furthermore, as well as the biomedical mode the functionalist approach does not take into account the social and environmental factors of ill health, it relays on the scientific methods to address and diagnose the illness. In addition, it is criticised for being technology centred and expensive, also for the functionalist if individuals take upon a sick role, the individual must be exempt from social responsibilities.
The social medical model of health is a method that focuses on the social and environment factors, which might affect the health and well-being of individuals within society. Some of these factors may include: diet, pollution, poor housing and poverty. The socio medical model of health has some positive factors regarding the health of individuals, due to the model focusing on the social and environmental factors; this allows individuals’ health to improve. An example of this may be asthma, as mentioned before some factors which trigger asthma are pollution, smoke or animal fur. Within the socio medical model it looks at how it can improve the health of individuals socially and environmentally. If the individual has pets, the model will look at removing the obstacles which are the pets as their fur are a factor towards triggering the individual’s asthma.
This way this can improve the health of the individual without having to take any medication. In addition, another example regarding the social medical model of health world-wide is the netting used in Africa and various countries to prevent malaria. Furthermore, by using the nets it prevents individuals from contracting malaria, which in turn ensure the individual’s health is well, by preventing malaria it reduces health care costs for the individuals. The weakness of the socio medical model of health is that it does not assess the causes of ill health genetically or research in depth. Moreover, the model believes that health can be improving the social conditions as it can affect health of some particular groups.
Some of the strengths of the socio medical model of health are that it understands and considers the individual’s experiences it looks at the individual as a whole, rather than a mechanic like the biomedical model of health. However, within the socio medical model of health, it explains health as a positive state of wholeness and well-being, but it does not entirely explain the absence of disease, illness or physical and mental impairment. The theory that links more with the socio medical model of health is the conflict model which is the Marxists theory. The conflict model is an approach that is associated with Karl Marx, the model sees institutions within society such as hospitals, as being organised to meet the needs and interests of the capitalist or the ruling class. Within the conflict theorists it explains the high rates of ill health and short life expectancy in poor individuals within society. It also explains the inequalities between the disadvantaged and the advantaged in society. An example of this would be poor individuals, these individuals are more likely to have a poor diet and live in damp house and this can lead to ill health. The capitalist may not be willing to make the changes in order to protect the poor individuals from ill health. Within the socio medical model, it states that there are preventable deaths in the modern Western society which may be linked to personal choices and behavioural factors. This may include: alcohol abuse, smoking, misuse of drug intake and diet. In addition, these factors can lead to ill heath, which can result in the increase of death rate and infant mortality.
Rogers and Pilgrim emphasise the correlation between the two models as it can be demonstrated unequivocally that social stress is in correlation with the social class. Relating to the Marxist critique of the bio-medical model as it is a direct consequence of capitalism that a class that is more at risk to contract illness through sue to the cause of economic status. Some sociology theorists may believe that the medical profession is under the educated upper classes who are interested in keeping the lower class content while using the workforce for growth and economy.
In conclusion both of these models have some strengths and weaknesses, for example the bio medical model of health tries to ensure there is an absence of ill health and the socio medical models tries to focus on the environment and social factors in order to prevent ill health. However, the bio medical only focuses on the individual and it ignores the environment, which might be a contributing factor towards the individual’s illness. In addition the socio medical model of health does not assess the causes of ill health genetically or research in depth. Moreover, both of these models on there are own are very weak, but together they work really well as they would both be looking at the individual holistically. In addition the models can be seen as two complementary approaches to the study of health and illness.
Stretch, Beryl (Editor); Whitehouse, Mary (Editor). BTEC National Health and Social Care Book 1.
Harlow, Essex, GBR: Pearson Education Limited, 2007. p 344.
Copyright © 2007. Pearson Education Limited. All rights reserved.