The Sociology of Health
Access to health professions
Lecturer: Elspeth Cordell
Outcomes for this unit
• Sociology of Health criteria sheet
• The assessment for this unit
Today’s lesson outcomes
• Define Biomedical and social definitions of
health (C1)
• Discuss the differences (C1.1)
• Evaluate with examples the definitions of
health and illness (C1.1)
• By the end of the lesson we should have
addressed part 1 of the assignment
Getting you thinking task: When can a
illness be labelled as a illness
• Answer the questions on the hand-out
Conclusion of activity
• Real evidence
• Produces sympathy
• Patient is believed
But what is ‘health’?
Working towards Criteria 1 of assessment
Part 1
• What does ‘health’ mean?
• Spend a couple of minutes writing your own
definition of health
• After this , share with your neighbour
Part 2
• We need to have a definition of health.
• Why?
Public definitions of health
Blaxter (1990)
10,000 people
How they define health
3 categories immerged
3 definitions of health and illness
• Public definitions
• Bio-medical model
• The Social model
• T: Firstly Come up with your own definitions of
1: positive definition
• Health defined as:
• Being fit and able to undertake any reasonable
• Feelings are attached to this definition
• How one ‘feels’
2- negative definition
• Health defined in terms of being free from
pain and discomfort
• Absence of feeling hurt or feeling pain
3. Functional definition
• Healthy is defined in terms of being able to
perform a range of tasks
• Objective view of health- mechanical
What influences these definitions?
• What factors could influence how we define
health? for example cultural differences
1. Think of things that could influence how we
define health
2. give an example
Example: Mental illness
• Is culture bound
• evidence suggests that mental illness in one
culture may not be viewed as such in another
(Fernando, 1991)
• Atypical behaviour?
Cultural differences
• Krause (1989)
• Hindu and Sikh Punjabis
living in Bedford
• Sinking heart
• Physical chest pain
• Illness caused by variety
of emotional
• Public shame
Any other examples ?
• What is needed is an accepted definition of
health and illness
The accepted definition..
• “A state of complete physical, social and
mental wellbeing, and not merely the absence
of disease or infirmity”
• WHO 1948
T: Anything wrong with this?
The up-to-date definition..
• “Health is seen as a resource for everyday life,
not an object of living. It is a positive concept
emphasising social and personal resources as
well as physical capabilities. The extent to
which an individual or (group of individuals) is
able, on one hand to realise aspirations and
satisfy needs, and on the other hand to
change or cope with the environment.”
• Is this a better definition and why?
The biomedical model (C1.1)
• Worksheet task
The social model C1.1
• Worksheet task:
End of lesson
• Check learning question to encapsulate MUST,
• 1. When defining health firstly what do we
have to consider, and secondly why is it
• Please hand this to me
Implications of the definitions
• Huge implications on disabled people (Moore
et al 2001)
• Why do you think this is?
• impediments that stops someone from
operating normally…
• This assumes that: we have a clear definition
of normal bodily functions and what the
normal activities aassociated with this body
part are!
• Oliver (1996) Disability is also a social
construction not just physical one

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