Healthcare and the biopsychosocial and biomedical models

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Discuss why a modern healthcare system should adopt a biopsychosocial rather than a biomedical approach The biomedical approach is the dominant model in medicine today and it has guided the thinking of most health practitioners for hundreds of years (Taylor,1986). The biomedical model only acknowledges a biological explanation for illness. Biological explanations are very important but they form an incomplete picture of the causes of illness. The other causes of illness are acknowledged in the biopsychosocial model. The term was first used by Engel in 1977 in his critique of biomedicine published in Science (Murray, 2004). As the name implies this model uses psychological and social explanations as well as biological ones to provide a full picture of health and illness. The biomedical model has dominated how health and illness have been viewed for the last century (Whitman, 1999). The biomedical model is reductionist because it only defines illness in terms of biological processes and does not consider the psychological and social factors (Taylor, 1995 cited in Whitman, 1999). Many books in health psychology use the analogy of a mechanic repairing a car. He or she would diagnose a problem and then carry out repairs Continue...


This model looks for the link between the mind and the body and advocates a holistic approach to health care. All these are caused by micro-organisms and respond to relatively simple medical interventions such as anti-biotics. Another hallmark of the biomedical model is its emphasis on illness and its development rather than the promotion of health (Banyard, 1996). These triumphs are attributed to the increasing knowledge of biology and new technology (Yardley, 1997). These are chronic diseases that have multiple causes. Now the three most common causes of death are heart disease, cancer and accidents. Firstly at the turn of the last century the diseases that were the main killers were single cause infections. (Banyard, 1996) These are the main reasons why more recent models of health and illness have tended to be multi-factorial in nature (Whitman, 1999). The biomedical model also does not acknowledge the interaction between the mind and the body. The biopsychosocial model claims that illness is caused by a combination of biological, psychological and social factors. The biomedical approach looks for the cause of a disorder rather than looking at a range of contributory factors. The biopsychosocial approach is an example of this. There is also an increasing emphasis on quality of life. None of these has a simple cause that is known of and the interventions are drastic and have limited success.