Health Studies - Part One.
The World Health Organisation defines health as, “A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity” (WHO 1948). This definition continues to be referred to in academic text books and commonly referred to by health professionals. However it could be argued that, a large proportion of any population are unlikely to feel completely healthy at any one time. An opposing definition states health is “Functioning effectively in many different environments, which we can only do if we come to accept our various aches and pains in less than perfect physical and mental condition” (Illich, 1976). The above views could be categorised into Positive and Negative views of health, The WHO refer to those in which health is defined as something that is achieved or gained, this would be considered to be a positive view. A negative definition would be described as the absence of something. There are also two main ways of seeing health negatively; the first equates it with the absence of disease or bodily abnormality. The second is the absence of any illness. Therefore according to this people are healthy as long as they show no signs of bodily abnormalities. Maclntye (1986 ) definition could be considered as a negative view as it suggests that “abnormal” is unhealthy, implying that a person in a wheelchair is unhealthy, as is having HIV, or early signs of cancer. There are a variety of definitions that people measure as healthy and these perceptions have changed over time, but an open ended question cannot be measured. Health was never really taken into consideration historically, as people generally only ever focused on treating illness and disease. Before the 1700’s popular belief of illness and disease would have been the presence of evil spirit or curse interned inside the patient. Trepanning was a method where a hole was drilled into the skull of the patient to let the evil spirits leave the body, also losing blood was considered to be beneficial to health. This practice was called bloodletting and was the most common procedure performed by surgeons for almost two thousand years. They did it to balance the humours, as a surplus was thought to cause ill health. All four classical elements - fire, earth, water and air - were thought to be present in the blood, and so bloodletting was believed to return the patient to general good health. According to Galen, fevers, apoplexy and headache were a result of too much blood, so the surgeon would tie the arm to make the veins swell, cut the patient and drain out a certain amount of blood, a process which was called ‘breathing a vein’. It was not until Ignaz Semmelweis who was a Hungarian physician whose work demonstrated that hand-washing could drastically reduce the number of women dying after childbirth. This work took place in the 1840s, while he was Director of the maternity clinic at the Vienna General Hospital in Austria. The surgeons did not scrub up before surgery or even wash their hands between patients, causing infections to be transferred from one patient to another. Doctors and medical students routinely moved from dissecting corpses to examining new mothers without first washing their hands, causing death by puerperal or ‘childbed’ fever as a consequence. As dissection became more important to medical practice in the 1800s, this only increased. Through vigorous statistical analysis, Semmelweis figured out where the problem lay and introduced rigorous hand-washing rules in the maternity ward. Deaths were drastically reduced; this was considered as the age of enlightenment as belief shifted from spirituality and took a more scientific view thus paving the way for the modern biomedical model of health. In western societies our approach towards health has an Individualistic view and be in mechanical terms, which is a culture that places more emphasis in the individual and values independence....
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