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Stephen D. Glazier & Mary J. Hallin

In: 21st Century Anthropology: A Reference Handbook

Chapter 93: Health and Illness

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Health and Illness
Health and illness

Medical anthropologists disagree about definitions of the terms health and illness. A complicating factor is that health and illness are not-and never have been-opposites, since both health and illness can reside within the same individual at the same time. Clearly, health, illness, and disease are related concepts. But how does illness relate to disease? All definitions of health are imbued with moral, ethical, and political implications. Perhaps the broadest definition of health is that proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO), defining health with reference to an “overall sense of well-being.” By WHO's criteria, only a relatively small percentage of the world's population could be classified as healthy.

Medical anthropologists find it necessary to distinguish disease from illness (Beyerstein, 1997; Eisenberg, ...

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