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The biomedical and social model of health

Asked by scot | Jun 15, 2008 | A Level > Sociology > Coursework
scot asks:

explain the biomedical and the socio-medical models of health ? in detail.

etutor answers:

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. It does not take into account social and psychological factors. It is dominated by considerations of genetically determined disease and biological status, and susceptibility or resistance to trauma and disease. The social model of health looks at how society and our environment affect our everyday health and well-being, and includes factors such as social class, occupation, education, income and poverty, poor housing, poor diet, and pollution.

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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