Different Perspectives Of Health And Health

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Different Perspectives Of Health And Health Essay

  1. Explain the FOUR different approaches to health. Which one do you feel is a prevalent or dominant paradigm in promoting health in Canadian society? Explain why. Illustrate your answer with a current social/environmental problem or social/environmental issue.Different Perspectives Of Health And Health Essay


The social sciences offer an enlarged understanding of the scope of health studies and health policy. In particular, sociology & political science have identified and investigated critical questions about the different meanings of health, the influence of public policy upon the organization and delivery of health care services, and upon the other factors that affect health. Paradigms, the ways we understand health, range from traditional concerns about clinical health care to an emphasis upon the economic, political, and social forces that shape the organization and delivery of health care services and related public policies that determine the health of a population. In total, the paradigms have been classified into 4 broad categories: Medical, behavioural/lifestyle, socio-environmental and structural

This assignment is a reflection of team work in the first enquiry. This assignment is going to discuss the concepts of health, my beliefs about health and illness, and how the unit may have altered my views on health.Different Perspectives Of Health And Health Essay

‘Health’ as a concepts means different to different people. Some believe health as a state of being free from disease but some believe that this definition is limited. It is so hard to define health. There is no any universal definition of health (Taylor, 2008- p5frog). So health is a dynamic concepts and complex whose definition varies with the context in which the term is used. There are various prospective to understand health. Health can be understood on biological approach, biomedical approach, behavioural approach, spiritual approach, health education approach, public health approach and many more. Biological approach explores the role of genes. Biomedical approach looks health and illness in terms of pathology of individual. Behavioural approach promotion of health that focus on risk factors and lifestyle behaviour. Public health approach stress on reducing disease prevalence rate and prevention of non-communicable disease (Keleher and MacDougall, 2008- p5 cactus). However, health can be culturally understood differently to Indigenous Australian and differently to western countries and non- western countries. For instance, Indigenous believe that notion of health and well-being related to family, community and connectedness to traditional land. They rather ignore individual as a separate entity (Taylor, 2008- p6frog). According to Keleher and MacDougall (2008), “…understanding health is built upon broad notions of health that recognise the range of social, economical, and environmental factors that contribute to health” (p. 6-7 cactus). It seems that people are the focal point to derive the proper concepts of health. Keleher and MacDougall (2008-p6 cactus) argue that people’s prospective is the major steps to understand the health. Many studies show that health is related to state of wellbeing and illness. Western cultural countries like Australia also believe that health is the absence of diseases or pathogens in an individual (Taylor, 2008 p 10frog).

Different people think health in different ways. Sandra Taylor (200 8 p6 frog) argues that meaning of health is influenced by socio-cultural factors like gender, age, ethnicity and also culture. Number of studies show that men and women have different ratio to seek health information. Sandra Taylor claims that female are proactive than man to seek health information (p.6). Beside this demography is a consistent factor influencing health of individual. Sandra Taylor argues that people living in rural area associate health and wellbeing as more productive, experienced better health care and able to get health services in time (P-7).

I am from very remote and isolated town. I have experienced the important of health. I believe that health is a wealth that an individual earn in life. Without the sound health it is hard to perform life sustaining activities like job, physical activities and much more other things.

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Socio-Culture affects the beliefs of people. There are strong religious thoughts and practice to cure illness and analyse heath issues. I born in Hindu family and being a Hindu family, one has different ways to treat the disease or illness. People believed that illness use to be due to wrong work done upon spirit. There are number of places in Asia where still people believe on “god of spirit” for the family and community welfare. God or goddess was worship when a person gets sick. Only few people living in and around the town areas could get heath measures. But many people passed away without seeing a single hospital bed. Though, people used to take patients to hospital, at the last hours only after a person with supernormal skills give-up, and the patients die before reaching to the hospital. So, in this contexts, health meant different to those lived with me and to the others lived in and around the town. This was the understanding of health when I was in Bhutan and also in Refugee camp in Nepal.

It has been claimed that;

“All of these variables have an impact on patients’ health care usage. General practitioners need to be aware of the individualism of their patients, and recognise that predisposing culture and beliefs may influence the management of patients in general practice” (Ten & Wett, 1998. p 773).

I believe health is also influences by behaviour also. Cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of physical exercise and many other day to day activities could accelerate the health problems. Health studies show that lung cancer is the effect of smoking (Taylor, 2010), asthma cause by smoking and environmental pollutant (Dawbin and Roger, 2008), diabetes type-2, obesity, are cause by the lack of physical activities, food habit, and junk food consumption. All the above mentioned causes are practiced first and felt in the trouble with diseases and illness. People could change this behaviour and standardised their lifestyle if they really think about it. For instance, smoking behaviour could be reduced and physical activities could be increased to avoid asthma or lung cancer.

Financial condition influences the heath. For instance, to receive appropriate health services or medications, a person had to have a good amount in hand. It still exists in many parts of the world. I have had an experience of visiting traditional herbalist when I was sick in Bhutan instead of treatment in hospital. It was free in my country because of big forest where we get herbs. It was hard to get General Practitioner (GP) and consult about the issues surgical operation and organ transplantation in those places. One had to keep whole land in mortgage to visit doctor in India or Bangladesh.

Illness is the condition of health.

Richard; Cumming, Robert; Woodward, Alistair and Black, Megan [2010]. Passive smoking and lung cancer: a cumulative meta-analysis. [Online]. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, v.25, no.3, June 2001: 203-211. Retrieved on 24 Apr10 from http://0-search.informit.com.au.alpha2.latrobe.edu.au/fullText;dn=200111944;res=APAFT> ISSN: 1326-0200.

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Dawbin, D., & Rogers, A.(2008). Age Care in Australia; Common Health Conditions, pp 147. Press: Ligare Pty., Riverwood NSW2210

Ten, V., & Wett, L. (2010). Caring for the Chinese patient in general practice. Australian Family Physician. Australian Family Physician v.27 no.9 Sept 1998: 773-775. Retrieved on April 24, 2010 from http://0-search.informit.com.au.alpha2.latrobe.edu.au/search;rs=4;rec=1;action=showCompleteRec

MY Thoughts
This is my reflective thoughts on health issues. This reflection is based on the learning outcome that I have achieved and done oral and written presentation in the first enquiry. This reflection will help me to understand the concepts of health and strategies used in treating different diseases and viewed through different perspectives by individuals and social responses.

Concepts of human health have broad meanings and concepts. People have different thoughts and different connotation for health. Some believe health as a state of being free from any disease. For some health means having balance and stability in their lifestyle, for others it could be their capability in carrying out their responsibilities and also to remain fit and healthy (Taylor, 2008, p5). According to World Health Organisation (WHO, 1974) health is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. However, this definition is criticised by many people due to its subjective nature and the problems in the definition of health. According to Sian Keane, health professionals must understand the concept of health from the perspective view of people with disabilities. She argues that health professionals must not focus on the narrow clinical aspects of illness and disability; rather it is best to accept these individuals as fully fit and capable of health within the context of their disability. She further says that health professionals often overlook the proper management and promotion of health for people with disability. They have wrong perceptions about their specific needs and their treatments. In fact, health promotion for people with disability is the same as appropriate with non-disable people (Keane, Disability; A guide for Health Professionals, (1996, p320). As such the concept of health is dynamic and complex whose definition varies with the context in which the term is used. In fact, the concept of health is rooted in the unique individual, family, social, cultural and geographical contexts in which the term is used; as such, it is said to be socially and culturally constructed (Taylor, p5).

Culture and ethnic background plays an important role in influencing concepts in understanding health, health related issues, illness, their beliefs and expectations of health services from health care providers. Understanding people’s belief and their needs are very important for the care givers or health professionals. The concept of health is well understood by the main-stream Australian society on the basis of illness and disease in individuals and the belief in biomedical approach and the absence of pathology in human body (Taylor, p5). Indigenous people and people from other cultures have different approaches or typical way of understanding of health and health related issues in relation to physical, mental, emotional and their possible causes and treatments. For example in our culture, we believe in our traditional medicine (Herbal or Ayurvedic medicine) extracted from medicinal plants to prevent or cure certain diseases. We also believe in homeopathy, an alternative form of medicine. Besides western biomedical treatments, traditional medicines are normally prescribed representing the co-existence of different cultural beliefs.

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Health is understood by people in different perspectives through experience and influenced by different factors such as biological, psychological and social through complex interactions between different cultures. According to Taylor men and women in Australia have different approaches to health related issues, behaviours and exposure to risk factors. Women are more vulnerable to psychological stress than men but more positive in seeking first hand information regarding their health and actively take preventive measures. There are some other factors that impact on health of people according to their family history, their disposable income and experience. It also depends on their living standards and geographical locations.

As I come from different culture and place where we didn’t have access to basic health facilities so I always wondered what it would be to understand the whole setting. I lived in a refugee camp where I had spent more than eighteen years and I had seen people affected with different diseases both communicable and non-communicable. Most of them could not get medical help as there were no doctors or nurses available and lack of financial support on time so they were just left with no options but to seek help from local shaman to ward off evil spirits from their bodies. As most of the people were illiterate who didn’t understand and trust modern medicine and doctors, most of us did not know how it worked as there were no health promotion campaign and awareness of different diseases and their possible treatments. I have seen people afflicted with some of the worst kind of diseases and spent their whole miserable life without any help until they died. Most of the family members in the community just waited helplessly to end his or her life. I have seen some of my own friends, relatives and neighbours dying of diseases which were treatable only if they had access to medical facilities and medicines in time. For example I nearly died of typhoid, jaundice and cholera when I was in the refugee camp and on top of that I was malnourished and didn’t know that it is all due to unhygienic food, lack of clean drinking water and polluted environment. I relied on herbal medicines and animism form of worship, as there were no possible help to get treated with western medicines. As such the whole scenario has changed my understanding of health and treatment of different diseases through different means of settings. It is all possible to understand the concept of health by following the correct form of practising health and hygiene. Now we have been resettled here in Australia so we have access to medical facilities but still some of the elderly people in our community do not trust medicines prescribed by the practitioners.

Better health is central to human happiness and well-being. It also makes an important contribution to economic progress, as healthy populations live longer, are more productive, and save more.

Many factors influence health status and a country’s ability to provide quality health services for its people. Ministries of health are important actors, but so are other government departments, donor organizations, civil society groups and communities themselves. For example: investments in roads can improve access to health services; inflation targets can constrain health spending; and civil service reform can create opportunities – or limits – to hiring more health workers.

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WHO’s work on ‘Health and development’ tries to make sense of these complex links. It is concerned with the impact of better health on development and poverty reduction, and conversely, with the impact of development policies on the achievement of health goals. In particular, it aims to build support across government for higher levels of investment in health, and to ensure that health is prioritized within overall economic and development plans. In this context, ‘health and development’ work supports health policies that respond to the needs of the poorest groups. WHO also works with donors to ensure that aid for health is adequate, effective and targeted at priority health problems.

This report will be investigating the various sociological perspectives on health as well as the models and definitions of health and ill health. These topics will assist in the understanding of how different people and different cultures react to ill health. 1.1-CONTRASTING SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES ON HEALTH In modern society there is a general consensus that ‘good health’ is something that everyone wants to experience and that each individual knows what this involves. Because there are so many different definitions of health and ill health it can become a very complicated concept. Walsh (2011) states that “In sociological terms ‘health’ and ‘illness’ are contested concepts. This means that the general meaning of these words should not be taken for granted.

This website provides an update on WHO activities in the area of health and development, including recent publications, reports of country work and information on training courses and capacity-building activities

Before discussing these perspectives, we must first define three key concepts—health, medicine, and health care—that lie at the heart of their explanations and of this chapter’s discussion. Health refers to the extent of a person’s physical, mental, and social well-being. As this definition suggests, health is a multidimensional concept. Although the three dimensions of health just listed often affect each other, it is possible for someone to be in good physical health and poor mental health, or vice versa. Medicine refers to the social institution that seeks to prevent, diagnose, and treat illness and to promote health in its various dimensions. This social institution in the United States is vast, to put it mildly, and involves more than 11 million people (physicians, nurses, dentists, therapists, medical records technicians, and many other occupations). Finally, health care refers to the provision of medical services to prevent, diagnose, and treat health problems.


With these definitions in mind, we now turn to sociological explanations of health and health care. As usual, the major sociological perspectives that we have discussed throughout this book offer different types of explanations, but together they provide us with a more comprehensive understanding than any one approach can do by itself. Table 13.1 “Theory Snapshot” summarizes what they say.

Table 13.1 Theory Snapshot

Theoretical perspective Major assumptions
Functionalism Good health and effective medical care are essential for the smooth functioning of society. Patients must perform the “sick role” in order to be perceived as legitimately ill and to be exempt from their normal obligations. The physician-patient relationship is hierarchical: The physician provides instructions, and the patient needs to follow them.
Conflict theory Social inequality characterizes the quality of health and the quality of health care. People from disadvantaged social backgrounds are more likely to become ill and to receive inadequate health care. Partly to increase their incomes, physicians have tried to control the practice of medicine and to define social problems as medical problems.
Symbolic interactionism Health and illness are social constructions: Physical and mental conditions have little or no objective reality but instead are considered healthy or ill conditions only if they are defined as such by a society. Physicians “manage the situation” to display their authority and medical knowledge.
The Functionalist Approach
As conceived by Talcott Parsons (1951),Parsons, T. (1951). The social system. New York, NY: Free Press. the functionalist perspective emphasizes that good health and effective medical care are essential for a society’s ability to function. Ill health impairs our ability to perform our roles in society, and if too many people are unhealthy, society’s functioning and stability suffer. This was especially true for premature death, said Parsons, because it prevents individuals from fully carrying out all their social roles and thus represents a “poor return” to society for the various costs of pregnancy, birth, child care, and socialization of the individual who ends up dying early. Poor medical care is likewise dysfunctional for society, as people who are ill face greater difficulty in becoming healthy and people who are healthy are more likely to become ill.

For a person to be considered legitimately sick, said Parsons, several expectations must be met. He referred to these expectations as the sick role. First, sick people should not be perceived as having caused their own health problem. If we eat high-fat food, become obese, and have a heart attack, we evoke less sympathy than if we had practiced good nutrition and maintained a proper weight. If someone is driving drunk and smashes into a tree, there is much less sympathy than if the driver had been sober and skidded off the road in icy weather.

Second, sick people must want to get well. If they do not want to get well or, worse yet, are perceived as faking their illness or malingering after becoming healthier, they are no longer considered legitimately ill by the people who know them or, more generally, by society itself.

Third, sick people are expected to have their illness confirmed by a physician or other health-care professional and to follow the professional’s instructions in order to become well. If a sick person fails to do so, she or he again loses the right to perform the sick role.

Talcott Parsons wrote that for a person to be perceived as legitimately ill, several expectations, called the sick role, must be met. These expectations include the perception that the person did not cause her or his own health problem.

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If all these expectations are met, said Parsons, sick people are treated as sick by their family, their friends, and other people they know, and they become exempt from their normal obligations to all these people. Sometimes they are even told to stay in bed when they want to remain active.

Physicians also have a role to perform, said Parsons. First and foremost, they have to diagnose the person’s illness, decide how to treat it, and help the person become well. To do so, they need the cooperation of the patient, who must answer the physician’s questions accurately and follow the physician’s instructions. Parsons thus viewed the physician-patient relationship as hierarchical: the physician gives the orders (or, more accurately, provides advice and instructions), and the patient follows them.

Parsons was certainly right in emphasizing the importance of individuals’ good health for society’s health, but his perspective has been criticized for several reasons. First, his idea of the sick role applies more to acute (short-term) illness than to chronic (long-term) illness. Although much of his discussion implies a person temporarily enters a sick role and leaves it soon after following adequate medical care, people with chronic illnesses can be locked into a sick role for a very long time or even permanently. Second, Parsons’s discussion ignores the fact, mentioned earlier, that our social backgrounds affect the likelihood of becoming ill and the quality of medical care we receive. Third, Parsons wrote approvingly of the hierarchy implicit in the physician-patient relationship. Many experts say today that patients need to reduce this hierarchy by asking more questions of their physicians and by taking a more active role in maintaining their health. To the extent that physicians do not always provide the best medical care, the hierarchy that Parsons favored is at least partly to blame.

The Conflict Approach
The conflict approach emphasizes inequality in the quality of health and of health-care delivery (Weitz, 2013).Weitz, R. (2013). The sociology of health, illness, and health care: A critical approach (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Wadsworth. As noted earlier, the quality of health and health care differs greatly around the world and within the United States. Society’s inequities along social class, race and ethnicity, and gender lines are reproduced in our health and health care. People from disadvantaged social backgrounds are more likely to become ill, and once they do become ill, inadequate health care makes it more difficult for them to become well. As we will see, the evidence of disparities in health and health care is vast and dramatic.

The conflict approach also critiques efforts by physicians over the decades to control the practice of medicine and to define various social problems as medical ones. Physicians’ motivation for doing so has been both good and bad. On the good side, they have believed they are the most qualified professionals to diagnose problems and to treat people who have these problems. On the negative side, they have also recognized that their financial status will improve if they succeed in characterizing social problems as medical problems and in monopolizing the treatment of these problems. Once these problems become “medicalized,” their possible social roots and thus potential solutions are neglected.

Several examples illustrate conflict theory’s criticism. Alternative medicine is becoming increasingly popular, but so has criticism of it by the medical establishment. Physicians may honestly feel that medical alternatives are inadequate, ineffective, or even dangerous, but they also recognize that the use of these alternatives is financially harmful to their own practices. Eating disorders also illustrate conflict theory’s criticism. Many of the women and girls who have eating disorders receive help from a physician, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or another health-care professional. Although this care is often very helpful, the definition of eating disorders as a medical problem nonetheless provides a good source of income for the professionals who treat it and obscures its cultural roots in society’s standard of beauty for women (Whitehead & Kurz, 2008).Whitehead, K., & Kurz, T. (2008). Saints, sinners and standards of femininity: Discursive constructions of anorexia nervosa and obesity in women’s magazines. Journal of Gender Studies, 17, 345–358.

Obstetrical care provides another example. In most of human history, midwives or their equivalent were the people who helped pregnant women deliver their babies. In the nineteenth century, physicians claimed they were better trained than midwives and won legislation giving them authority to deliver babies. They may have honestly felt that midwives were inadequately trained, but they also fully recognized that obstetrical care would be quite lucrative (Ehrenreich & English, 2005).

According to conflict theory, physicians have often sought to define various social problems as medical problems. An example is the development of the diagnosis of ADHD, or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

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In a final example, many hyperactive children are now diagnosed with ADHD, or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. A generation or more ago, they would have been considered merely as overly active. After Ritalin, a drug that reduces hyperactivity, was developed, their behavior came to be considered a medical problem and the ADHD diagnosis was increasingly applied, and tens of thousands of children went to physicians’ offices and were given Ritalin or similar drugs. The definition of their behavior as a medical problem was very lucrative for physicians and for the company that developed Ritalin, and it also obscured the possible roots of their behavior in inadequate parenting, stultifying schools, or even gender socialization, as most hyperactive kids are boys (Conrad, 2008; Rao & Seaton, 2010).Conrad, P. (2008). The medicalization of society: On the transformation of human conditions into treatable disorders. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press; Rao, A., & Seaton, M. (2010). The way of boys: Promoting the social and emotional development of young boys. New York, NY: Harper Paperbacks.

Critics say the conflict approach’s assessment of health and medicine is overly harsh and its criticism of physicians’ motivation far too cynical. Scientific medicine has greatly improved the health of people around the world. Although physicians are certainly motivated, as many people are, by economic considerations, their efforts to extend their scope into previously nonmedical areas also stem from honest beliefs that people’s health and lives will improve if these efforts succeed. Certainly there is some truth in this criticism of the conflict approach, but the evidence of inequality in health and medicine and of the negative aspects of the medical establishment’s motivation for extending its reach remains compelling.

The Symbolic Interactionist Approach
The symbolic interactionist approach emphasizes that health and illness are social constructions. This means that various physical and mental conditions have little or no objective reality but instead are considered healthy or ill conditions only if they are defined as such by a society and its members (Buckser, 2009; Lorber & Moore, 2002).Buckser, A. (2009). Institutions, agency, and illness in the making of Tourette syndrome. Human Organization, 68(3), 293–306; Lorber, J., & Moore, L. J. (2002). Gender and the social construction of illness (2nd ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. The ADHD example just discussed also illustrates symbolic interactionist theory’s concerns, as a behavior that was not previously considered an illness came to be defined as one after the development of Ritalin. In another example first discussed in Chapter 7 “Alcohol and Other Drugs”, in the late 1800s opium use was quite common in the United States, as opium derivatives were included in all sorts of over-the-counter products. Opium use was considered neither a major health nor legal problem. That changed by the end of the century, as prejudice against Chinese Americans led to the banning of the opium dens (similar to today’s bars) they frequented, and calls for the banning of opium led to federal legislation early in the twentieth century that banned most opium products except by prescription (Musto, 2002).Musto, D. F. (Ed.). (2002). Drugs in America: A documentary history. New York, NY: New York University Press.

In a more current example, an attempt to redefine obesity is now under way in the United States. Obesity is a known health risk, but a “fat pride” or “fat acceptance” movement composed mainly of heavy individuals is arguing that obesity’s health risks are exaggerated and calling attention to society’s discrimination against overweight people. Although such discrimination is certainly unfortunate, critics say the movement is going too far in trying to minimize obesity’s risks (Diamond, 2011).Diamond, A. (2011). Acceptance of fat as the norm is a cause for concern. Nursing Standard, 25(38), 28–28.

The symbolic interactionist approach has also provided important studies of the interaction between patients and health-care professionals. Consciously or not, physicians “manage the situation” to display their authority and medical knowledge. Patients usually have to wait a long time for the physician to show up, and the physician is often in a white lab coat; the physician is also often addressed as “Doctor,” while patients are often called by their first name. Physicians typically use complex medical terms to describe a patient’s illness instead of the more simple terms used by laypeople and the patients themselves.

Management of the situation is perhaps especially important during a gynecological exam, as first discussed in Chapter 12 “Work and the Economy”. When the physician is a man, this situation is fraught with potential embarrassment and uneasiness because a man is examining and touching a woman’s genital area. Under these circumstances, the physician must act in a purely professional manner. He must indicate no personal interest in the woman’s body and must instead treat the exam no differently from any other type of exam. To further “desex” the situation and reduce any potential uneasiness, a female nurse is often present during the exam.

Critics fault the symbolic interactionist approach for implying that no illnesses have objective reality. Many serious health conditions do exist and put people at risk for their health regardless of what they or their society thinks. Critics also say the approach neglects the effects of social inequality for health and illness. Despite these possible faults, the symbolic interactionist approach reminds us that health and illness do have a subjective as well as an objective reality.

Different Perspectives Of Health And Health Essay