Discussion: Naturalistic and Biomedical
Ideas about health maintenance vary among cultures and include ideologies such as consuming a well-balanced diet, wearing amulets, rewards for good behavior, and prayer. Illness causation ideologies include breach of taboo, soul loss, exposure to germs, upset in the hot–cold balance of the body, or a weakening of the body’s immune system. Treatment methods range from medications and surgeries to witchcraft and returning the soul to the ill person. In the Western world, the human body is thought of as a machine; when the machine breaks, illness occurs. Eastern philosophies generally view health as a state of balance between the physical and social environments as well as the supernatural environment (Carteret, 2011).
Theories of health and illness serve to create a context of meaning within which the patient can make sense of his or her bodily experience. They assist the patient in framing the illness in a meaningful and logical manner. A meaningful context for illness usually reflects core cultural values and helps the patient bring order to the chaotic world of serious illness and regain some sense of control in a frightening situation. Theories of illness shape how people receive and respond to prevention programs, treatment, and health education messages.
Theories of illness are often divided into three broad categories: personalistic, naturalistic, and biomedical (allopathic). In a personalistic system, illness is believed to be caused by the intentional intervention of an agent who may be a supernatural being (a deity or ancestral spirits) or a human being with special powers (a witch or sorcerer). The sick person’s illness is considered to be a direct result of the harmful influence of these agents and is often linked to the ill person’s behavior. In naturalistic causation, illness is explained in terms of a disturbed natural equilibrium. When the body is in balance with the natural environment, a state of health is achieved. When the balance no longer exists, then illness occurs. In the biomedical theory, illness is identified and cured using scientific evidence. The cause of illness is physiological in nature.
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