How do we understand health in relation to society? What role does culture play in shaping our experiences of, and orientation to, health and illness? How do we understand medicine and medical treatment within a sociological framework?
The concept of the medical model is frequently used by sociologists and others as a shorthand way of describing the dominant approach to disease in Western medicine. In the nineteenth century this approach, based on a pathological anatomy of the body broke away from earlier conceptions to establish the idea of specific diseases with specific causes. Earlier, disease in Western societies had been largely based on humoral theories and on exhaustive descriptions of symptoms. Thomas Sydenham, the seventeenth-century English physician, for example, would have no truck with dissection and the emerging field of anatomy, declaring: ...