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The Bio-Medical Model

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John Germov (2009) in ‘Imagining health problems as social issues’ talks about the social origins of health and illness, emergence of bio-medical and social model of health and limitations of bio-medical model which has been explained as follows:

The emergence of the biomedical model
In 1878, Louis Pasteur (1822–96) was the first person who came up with the idea of ‘germ theory of disease’. This theory stressed the role of germs as the causative agents for the development of disease in the human beings. Robert Koch (1843–1910) refined the idea of germ theory and came up with a term ‘Specific Aaetiology’ (meaning specific cause of disease) in which he stated that every disease is caused by a specific kind of bacteria. The central idea was that
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Social model also values the importance of biological and psychological factors and role of medicine in treating the diseases in consonance with the social factors thus trying to balance the role of bio and social model. The bio-model and social model coexists with their different domain of focus. The biomedical model focuses on treating the disease biologically focusing only on working of the human body while social model explores the health inequalities faced by different social groups based on sex, class, caste, ethnicity, occupation, status etc in the society.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recoganised the importance of social factors and the limitations of biomedical model in 1946, and came up with holistic definition of health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’ (WHO, 1946). Thus this definition stressed the need of ‘well-being’ rather than absence of merely disease.

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At the centre of the model factors such as gender, age, race, and hereditary are placed. The centre is surrounded by the four layers consisting of individual life style choices, community network, working conditions, socio-economic, environmental and cultural factors. According to this model, the genetic and lifestyle factors are the primary causes of inequality in health of the individuals. The other factors that play an important role are social and community networks, living and working conditions and general socioeconomic, cultural and environmental conditions. A numbers of studies carried out on the relationship between social conditions and emergence of a disease have also come up with the same conclusion given by Dahlgren and Whitehead Model. Epstein and Swartz (1981) observation is based on the report by prestigious science journal ‘Nature’ that claims that 20 percent of all cancer deaths can be attributed to occupation. Johnson et al. (1996) concluded that low autonomy and high workloads in an unsupportive work environment generates stress that is the cause of thirty five percent of cardio-vascular

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