Biomedical and the socio-medical models of health

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Biomedical and the socio-medical models of health

The biomedical model of health looks at individual physical functioning and describes bad health and illness as the presence of disease and symptoms of illness as a result of physical causes such as injury or infections and doesn’t look at the social and psychological factors. E.g. biomedical models assume that the complexity of individual can be reduced so that by accumulating facts about the parts that make up their body a decision about how to fix that part will result in health

The social model of health looks at how society and our environment affect our everyday health and well being, including factor such as social class, occupation, education, income and poverty, poor diet and pollution. E.g. poor housing and poverty are causes to respiratory problems and in response to these causes and origins of ill health. The socio-model aimed to encourage society to include better housing and introduce programmes to tackle poverty as a solution.

The focus of these models is principally to explain why health inequalities exist and persist. The key cultural explanation places emphasis upon pathological (i.e. personal/individual) consequences of behaviour such as poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, drug addiction, sexual practices or lack of exercise. On this argument, inequalities in health will be reduced when people make healthier personal behavioural decisions.

The health selection explanation argues that people in ill health will inevitably fall to the bottom of society and that therefore inequality is inevitable and will persist. People in this group are also least likely to alter unhealthy lifestyles. The structural explanation sees factors outside the individual's control affecting life and health chances. Issues relating to the form and nature of employment and unemployment are critical; as is the individual's position in society relating to, for example, home ownership, education, income, quality of life, living conditions and poverty (where few people have any real choice). Knowledge of health issues and of how poor health can be avoided or treated is equally critical

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Socio- model of health is one where:

  • The state of health is socially constructed resulting historical, social and cultural influences that have shaped perceptions of health and ill health.
  • The root causes for diseases and ill health are to be found in social factors, such as the way society is organised and structured.
  • Root causes are identified through beliefs and interpretation for example, from a feminist perspective, roots causes relate to patriarchy and oppression.
  • Knowledge is not exclusive but has a historical, social and cultural context as it is shaped by these involved.

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