The Sociology of Health

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The Sociology of Health

The socio-medical model of health
The socio-medical model of health focuses on the social factors which effect an individual’s health and well-being. They believe each person should be treated in accordance to their own personal circumstance and situation surrounding there illness, rather than be treated as a member of a group suffering from a particular illness, and should be treated the same as each person within that group. The socio-medical model concentrates on social factors contributing to the standards of health. Social inequality and living standards are important influences on the standards of health. The socio-medical model suggests that the wealthy are more likely to have good health and suffer from less illness, and the poor are more likely to have bad health and suffer from more illnesses than the wealthy would. Things which could be factors contributing to ill health within societies with poor living standards, according to the socio-medical model are; damp or cold houses, lack of exercise, poor diet, lack of education and health awareness etc. The socio-medical model also suggests that the standards of health varies across different cultures, and that what is considered an illness in one society might be not be seen as an illness in another society. For example the contagious skin disease ‘yaws’ was so common in sub-Saharan Africa early this century that it was not considered a disease at all, it was considered normal because most of the population had the disease. The socio-medical model thinks that some societies also treat people with an illness differently from other societies. For example Australia does not allow anyone with HIV into the country, which is seen by most other countries as morally wrong and contrasts with the way people with HIV are treated in the majority of societies around the world. Time is another factor which the socio-medical model believes influences the standards of health. For instance cigarettes were promoted as being positive over 60years ago, whereas today smoking cigarettes is a well-known health threat. Socio-medical treatments for illnesses include looking at an individual’s personal situation, identifying the factors which have contributed to their illness or disorder, and removing these factors in order to correct or resolve the problem. For example a young man who has gone bald, from a socio-medical point of view, would be assessed and factors in his life such as great stress at work would be identified, this stress would be seen as the cause of his premature baldness, and they would try to help the man find a health way to vent his stress - in order to improve his condition. The biomedical model would view this man in a different way, they would concentrate on genetic factors such as premature baldness in his father, and put this forward as the cause in contrast to the socio-medical model.

The biomedical model of health
The biomedical model emerged after the industrialisation of the western world. New scientific discoveries and methods were being used to produce a new model of health which used new technologies and tests such as x-rays, biopsies and electroencephalographs in order to monitor people’s health. These tests aim to show ‘biological malfunction or irregularity’ in order to diagnose illnesses, which are then treated using biological methods such as drugs, operations, hospitalisation etc. (Ross Clarke, 2012). According to the biomedical model the individual is not responsible for their illness or condition, and think that illness is caused by; a biological breakdown within the individual (this can be things such as infections, genetic malfunctions, broken bones and so on) or by external factors invading the body – such as virus’s and disease etc. They believe every single illness has ‘one single observable cause’. (Mike Harris, 2008). The biomedical model believes that the cause for a certain illness in one person has...
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