How society views and defines health is determined by a range of factors and sociological perspectives. There is statistical evidence available about how common illnesses are in the UK. There are a number of contrasting definitions of health, illness and disease. According to the world health organisation “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. For some health may be related to moods and feelings and having an equal balance in physical and mental well-being. Whereas for a young female health may be linked to being beautiful or thin as this is commonly portrayed in magazines and the media. For an elderly person they may feel healthy even with underlying illnesses as they may be able to carry out day to day tasks and feel fine on that particular day In 1990 Mildred Blaxter conducted a survey where she asked 10,000 people how they defined health, her findings defined three main outcomes negative, positive and functional. Negative which was free from disease, discomfort or pain. Positive which was a feeling of well-being and functional where people defined health as being able to function properly or carry out tasks. Being able to define health is important as it can help health care professionals deliver a better service and health services can work together towards positive definitions of health. There are a number of approaches to health one of them being the holistic approach. Ewles and simmet (1999) stated that the holistic approach to health has a number of different factors some of them being physical, intellectual and mental, emotional, social, spiritual and societal. The physical was the most obvious it is the mechanical functioning of the body. The mental was the ability to think clearly and coherently, the emotional was the ability to recognise emotions and cope with stress.
The social was the ability to make and maintain relationships, the spiritual was connected to religious beliefs and practises and the societal which was concerned with the society we live in and factors such as our surroundings and focused on an individual level. (class notes) This approach to health takes into account all aspects of the patients needs including psychological physical and social not just the biomedical. There are two main models to health the biomedical model and the biopyschosocial model. The biomedical was the dominant model of the NHS since it was formed in 1948. “Acccording to this model health is largely regarded as the absence of illness or disease and that the body is a biological machine which needs repairing every so often”. (class handouts) So if you were to go to the doctors with breathing problems you would be given the most appropriate treatment there and then and then sent home. However now the biomedical model is seen as innappropriate as there are many more known factors which can affect health. The biopyschosocial model was developed by Engel (1977-1980) and health is now seen as having psychosocial aspects as well as biological factors. So if you now went to the doctors with the same breathing problem the outcome would be different you would be given immediate treatment but the doctor would also take an interest in the social factors of the patient such as if chest problems are hereditary or whether the patients living condition or smoking are a factor in the chest complaint. This model recognises that the environment and social conditions can affect health and that good health is not solely the absence of illness.