The biomedical and sociological conceptions of health and illness differ with respect to
how health issues are understood in the society. The biomedical model is a model that defines
diseases based on the ideologies held by the medical profession. The social model moves away
from the predominance of disease and illnesses as described in the medical profession to social
and environmental factors.
The biomedical model as held by the medical profession is institutionalized and
entrenched in society putting the position advocated by western medicine to be the most
important social system. In this model, illnesses and diseases can only be addressed through
western medicine. The biomedical model is the one, which emphasizes on modern medicine that
was developed in the nineteenth century and uses physical examinations, dissections and medical
examinations to patients (ADEJO, n.d.) .
The biomedical model views every disease or illness to have a biological causative
organizsm.it also emphasizes on the belief that every illness and disease has a universally
identifiable and differentiated features. Ill health is considered a deviation from the normal.
Therefore, medical practice and diagnosis are based on objective science.
In the case study, Emily-Rose’s decision to visit Doctor Bilal after four weeks of ill health
and the diagnosis of depression is an example of a biomedical model. In addition, she was
referred to a specialist who diagnosed her as suffering from Myalgic Encephalopathy (ME)/
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). This diagnoses led to her change of medication and eventual
improvement from her condition. This is a form of biomedical model because her diagnosis
emphasizes the aspect of universal identification of ill-health conditions. The doctors who are
from the medical profession and relied on modern medicine physically examined her. The
Biomedical and Sociological Conceptions of Health 2
doctors relied on western medicine to treat her condition. Therefore, this is a biomedical
conception of health.
The sociological conception of health centers on the criticism of biomedical conception
of health. The sociological conception defines health as a positive state of wellbeing and
wholeness. The model locates the biological processes of the body within the social context
where a person lives. It relies on a holistic approach in understanding health unlike the
biomedical model that relies solely on biological issues. The sociological conception views the
health of people as a consequence of the interaction between environmental, social, economic
and personal factors. Therefore, the determinants of health are more varied and broad in terms of
scope (Blaxter, 2004, p. 143) .
The social model criticizes the biomedical model for viewing the body of a human being
as a mechanical combination of biophysical functions. It looks at a human being as a whole
where the sum total counts more than single parts. It also criticizes the biomedical model for
failing to locate the human body within the social and environmental context. It emphasizes that
disease conditions, cultural understandings and manifestations differ between different socio-
cultural contexts and cannot be categorized to have universal identification of all ill-health
conditions. It also criticizes mind-body dualism as advocated for, by biomedical conception.
Instead, it looks at the mind as incapable of influencing physical matter. The sociological
conception also looks at the use of technology in medicine as exaggerated. (ADEJO, n.d.)
In the case study, Emily-Rose has been identified to have a mixed English-African
parentage. Her parental grandmother who is an African confirmed the condition to be one that
occurred when a woman is about to start early menopause. She referred to the condition as Kuru.
She prescribes ginger, a cocktail of horny goat weed and several other herbs that she believes
Biomedical and Sociological Conceptions of Health 3
will cure Emily-Rose. This is a sociological conception because she views Emily-Rose’s
condition from a socio-environmental perspective and criticizes the sophistication of the society
stating that the traditional way is different and better.
Biomedical and Sociological Conceptions of Health 4
ADEJO, F., n.d. SH5002 – HEALTH ILLNESS AND SOCIETY. s.l.:s.n.
Blaxter, M., 2004. Health: key concepts.. New York: Polity.