Health and Social Care Issues: Social Model vs Medical Model

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Please explore what is meant by the terms social model and medical model. Describe an aspect of sociological theory and explore how it impacts and influences the delivery of Health and Social Care.

In this essay, the terms social model and medical model will be explored. Then, aspects of sociological theory and how it influences the delivery of health and social care will be explored

Health is difficult to define but fairly easy to spot when we actually see it. According to the World Health Organisation: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” (World Health Organisation, 2011)

There are two main models of health which reflect very different perspectives. These models are known as Social Model of Health and the Medical Model of Health.

In the medical model of health, the main attention focused on individual physical functioning and defines bad health and illness as the presence of disease. This model is dominated by views and opinions of genetically determined disease and biological status. The medical model views the body similarity to a machine, in which case, if the body was to ‘break down’ a doctor would take role as a mechanic and attempt to ‘fix’ body (Ken Browne, 2002) Unlike the social model, the medical model of health does not take into account social attributes which can also have an effect on health and illness.

The social model of health tends to focus on sociological factors linking to illness such as poverty, poor housing and unemployment. For instance, the impact that poverty and social class has on illness and health are reflected in life expectancy figures (UK National Statistics, 2009) Although life expectance in the UK has risen, there is still a significant gap in life expectancy between the middle class and the working class ( Office for National Statistics, 2011) Research with such results has been a controversial sociological topic for a while.

There are theorists that believe that the inequalities in the health service can be explained by their theories, Ham (1999) has suggested three theories that can be looked at for this. The Marxist approach looks at the two reasons they believe the health service exists, firstly it persuades society that our capitalist society cares, it legitimises capitalism by limiting social unrest and class conflict. The second reason, is that is enables the workers to carry on working for the bosses, as when they are ill the health service makes them better and allows them to carry on being a productive member of the workforce. This theory would explain why certain members of society such as the elderly and those with mental health problems receive less funding and care, they are not productive members of society therefore receive less expenditure. Though the fact that we do not directly pay for the National Health Service and that all members of society can access it, irrespective of their income is a socialist principle and not a capitalist one. The pluralist approach believes that the is the power of the groups that use the health service, that cause the inequalities in funding. They believe there are numerous groups that all compete against each other, and it is more complex that just the ruling class against the working class division. This would explain the conflict between the groups of doctors from various fields that compete for funding for their speciality, managers and politicians. Alford (1975) suggested that both these theories were useful, but combining them was more useful. He believes there are three parties in the health service, the dominant, challenging and repressed. The dominant group consists of established medical professions who compete for dominance, the winner will have the greatest power to make decisions over the other groups. The challenging group, consists of senior health managers and policy planners, the third group is the...
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