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Flashcards in Health Deck (106)
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How do the medical profession define health?

Negatively as 'the absence of disease'


WHO definition 1948 - first definition

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease - positive


Why did WHO first definition get criticised?

Difficult to measure
Giddens and Sutton - what exactly is meant by physical mental and social well being?


Giddens and Sutton

Criticise WHO's first definition for being difficult to measure
what exactly is meant by physical mental and social well being?


WHO 1984 - second definition

Health is the extent to which an individual or group is able, on one hand, to realise aspirations and satisfy needs, and on the other hand, to change or cope with the environment. Health is therefore, seen as a resource for everyday life, not the objective for living; it is a positive concept emphasising social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities.


Why was WHO's second definition better than the first?

More holistic definition


Lay definitions

Every one has different ideas about what health is


Lay definitions - cultural differences

Different social groups have different ideas of what makes illness. Hindu and Sikh Punjabis living in Bedford believe sinking heart is an illness which is having chest pain caused by emotional experiences. No illness exists in other cultures in Britain.


Lay definitions - age differences

Older people accept normal as a range of pains and physical limitations which younger people would define as symptoms of some illness or disability. As we age, we accept greater levels of physical discomfort. Young people define health as physical fitness but as people age, health becomes defined as being able to cope with everyday tasks.
Older people respond to illness by getting on with it.


Lay definitions - gender differences

Men have fewer consultations with doctors than women and appear to have lower levels of illness. This is due to the number of complications associated with childbirth and menopause that women face, but also due to the fact that men are less likely to define themselves as ill or needing medical attention. The idea of masculinity includes the belief that a man should be tough and put off going to the doctor.
Due to them not defining themselves as ill and not visiting GP's, men have higher mortality (death rates) than women.


Lay definitions - social class differences

Working class people were more likely to accept higher levels of illness than middle class people. Blaxter describes working class people as fatalistic (they accept being ill). This means people from lower social classes are less likely to consult a GP then middle class as they will accept more pain and discomfort, and they don't believe that they are ill enough to visit a doctor.



Individuals subjective experience of symptoms of ill health
Can have an illness without a disease



Clinical conditions defined by medical professions
Can have a disease without an illness


How can sociological perspectives explain health - Marxism

Illness comes from the capitalist system
Capitalism causes health for 2 reasons: working conditions (physical injuries, stress or working with toxic substances) and what we can buy with our money (tobacco, alcohol, processed food, fatty food, sugar and salt)
Althusser ISA - serves to mystify the real exploitive promoter of false consciousness. Health care makes people support capitalism (free) rather than questioning its inequalities.



ISA - serves to mystify the real exploitive promoter of false consciousness. Health care makes people support capitalism (free) rather than questioning its inequalities.


How can sociological perspectives explain health - functionalism

Parsons believes that most recognitions of illness stems from people's self diagnosis and reporting to a doctor to get confirmation. People aren't consistent - reporting to a doctor varies with age, social class, ethnicity and gender.
Parsons assumes doctors act out of altruism and treat everyone equally but CAGE affects quality of treatment and how much time they get.
Feminists argue parsons was blind to the frequent put downs that female patients receive and the elderly were dismissed with what do u expect as your age



The sick role


How can sociological perspectives explain health - interactionist

Max weber - focusses on dynamics between practitioners and patients (factors such as length of consultation according to social class, the growing medicalisation of society, medicine as a form of information control where patients are only told what the practitioner believes is important, labelling of medical conditions)
Many individuals find the medical profession intimidating which influences the consultation rates of some groups.


How can sociological perspectives explain health - Postmodernist perspective

Characterised by is focus on individualism and choice. See the balance of power between practitioners and patients as equal. Postmodernist perspective portrays individuals as acting like consumers (shop around and use different therapies)


What do CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) practitioners believe?

The body is made up different parts which are connected, so focusing on one part ignores how the other parts may be affected.


Parsons sick role

Illness is subjective - illness rests on individuals interpretation and then getting someone to believe them. Faking illness is a good excuse for some people.
Views being sick as not being able to carry out normal functions. People who are ill should revive sympathy and benefits (sick pay). But they have the responsibility to want to get better.
Parsons saw doctors as responsible for regulating illness because they are experts. Once they have been regulated, they to into the sick role.


WHO definition of disability

Disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a persons body and features of society in which he or she live


Disability as a social construction

Some people believe disability centres on physical impairment, but some believe it comes from societies discriminatory treatment
By not making adjustments to accommodate the needs of people with impairments, society disables them. This means society causes it.
Marxists see disability as the neglect of a group - shows how capitalism makes impairments and discriminates against those affected


The body as a social construction

The body in terms of shape and size is a social construction
Variations on what is the ideal body shape. There is no such thing as a natural or normal shape. The body reflects cultural attitudes, lifestyle decisions and structural factors.
Size is important - poor look very skinny, which portrays there status. Men have pressure of being skinny.
Being fat indicates lack of self control greediness and laziness
Women under pressure to be slim - obsession with body sizes
Cultural changes - shift towards fast food


Biomedical model

Illness can be defined using scientific methods. Medicine cures illness through drugs.
Sees the body as a machine which sometimes breaks down and needs fixing. Doctors treat the part of the body that isn't working


Criticisms of biomedical model

Only looks at scientific medicine
Overemphasis treatment but it doesn't work for everything
Focusses on treating rather than prevention


Social model

Focusses on poverty and deprivation
Lifestyle and cultural choices
Looks at all the causes


Social model criticisms

Medicine has contributed to improvements in health - social model thinks it doesn't help
Doctors are away at alternative therapies
Overemphasis social aspects


Medical gaze

Trying to fix the body through examination



Believes in medical gaze