Issues in complementary and alternative medicine
Issues in complementary and alternative medicine

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Issues in complementary and alternative medicine

1. Extract 1 Understanding health and healing

1.1 Introduction

Since the Second World War, health has come to signify much more than an absence of physical disease for many people in western societies. Interest in health now includes concerns about food, the strength of social networks and the quality of the environment. The stresses of modern living are recognised as a serious health issue. Personal choices are positively or negatively charged, depending on whether they are ‘good for you’ or ‘bad for you’. Most newspapers and magazines publish numerous health-related stories, and television programmes and health journals explain how to lead, or even buy, healthier lifestyles. By giving consumers unprecedented access to health information, the internet has further fuelled people's fascination with health.

This extract explores people's beliefs about health and illness, focusing on the meanings they ascribe to their health and wellbeing and how these influence their health behaviours. You will consider whether the individual experience of illness contrasts with the disease model underpinning the biomedical approach, and whether this leads some people to seek health advice and treatment from a wider range of sources. The issues of plurality and the multiplicity of ways of both understanding health and responding to it are examined with reference to existing models of health.

You will probe the extent to which the philosophies underpinning various approaches to health provide suitable frameworks for accommodating beliefs about health and healing. As there is relatively little information available about attitudes to using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), this extract looks more broadly at health beliefs in general.

Aims of Extract 1

  • To understand the different meanings of ‘health’ and ‘healing’.

  • To debate the relationship between professional and lay concepts in health practice.

  • To describe an understanding of relevant models of health, including the biomedical, biopsychosocial, salutogenic and alternative or holistic models.


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