The models of health and illness represent critical frameworks for the understanding the occurrence of either good or bad health. They also consider the factors contributing to health, including key actors in the healthcare processes, ranging from doctors to patients, who may have different perspectives on health and illness. It is important to have an understanding of health and illness models. The aim of this exploration is to discuss the biomedical and social models of health. While the biomedical model emphasizes the absence of illness as a defining factor of health, the social model of health considers a broader spectrum of factors, including social, cultural, political, and environmental influences.
The biomedical model underlines the importance of the physical (biological) characteristics of disease and illness. The model has been widely practiced by healthcare providers and is linked to diagnosis, cure, and disease treatment. In contrast, the social model of health represents a conceptual network for improving health and well-being as achieved by directing efforts toward addressing the limitations within social, economic, and environmental health determinants (Hogan 2019, p. 16). The model relies on the understanding that for health improvements to occur, social, economic, and environmental determinants must be improved.
Thus, the biomedical and social models of health vary in their approaches to health and discussion of factors that influence well-being. Therefore, the biomedical model is solely focused on the biological aspects of disease and illness, while the social model takes into account a wide range of factors that either limit or facilitate health within a population. While a wide range of health professionals generally practice the biomedical model, the social model can be applied by anyone who is interested in exploring the factors influencing health. Therefore, the biomedical model is concerned with formulating diagnoses, cures, and treatments of disease to guarantee the state of health. The social model of health, however, aims to prevent the external burdens that make it complex or impossible to attain a high quality of health. Finally, a significant difference between the model is that the social model of health remains highly relevant today in a diverse society while the biomedical model of health is no longer actively practiced.
Due to the contrasts with sociological care theories, which have been successful, the biomedical approach has been associated with poorer health outcomes and greater inequality (Dieppe 2017, p. 13). Therefore, the differences between the two models show that considering health in a multi-dimensional context that includes various factors influencing health is far more productive than focusing solely on biological issues pertaining to health. While it is important to acknowledge that biomedicine will continue to exist because of its effectiveness in controlling acute medical crises ranging from pneumonia to cancer, it cannot be used in isolation from the social models.
Such challenges as age-related issues, illness experiences, healthcare individualization, and chronic health problems that do not fit the biomedical problem are not considered in biomedicine, which explains the emergence of the social model of health. At the same time, biomedicine cannot be replaced because of the social model does not give an answer to how specific conditions must be treated effectively as it does not capture the biological underpinnings of disease. This means that the biomedical and social models of health can be used together to comprehensively address health challenges.
Dieppe, P 2017, ‘The dangers and limitations of modern biomedical research’, Journal of Holistic Healthcare, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 12-16.
Hogan, A J 2019, ‘Social and medical models of disability and mental health: evolution and renewal’, CMAJ, vol. 191, no. 1, pp. e16-e18.