The history of concepts of health and disease is the history of concepts that explain and direct response to disease, illness, sickness, and health. These concepts are deeply rooted in physical and psychical experiences and have medical and social consequences. The importance of scientific explanations, with their roots in Cartesian medicine and developments in the nineteenth century, is obvious. Of equal importance, perhaps, are attempts to counterbalance an excessive emphasis on scientific medicine with anthropo-logic, social, ethical, and political dimensions of the concepts of health and disease. After all, for much of its history medicine has not been confined solely to disease but also took responsibility for health. Therapy in the past meant more than just curing; it also meant prevention or preservation of health and assistance in chronic disease and in dying. Disease was interpreted as a disturbance of the organism, the sick person, and his or her social situation. Furthermore, medicine did not have sole domain over health and disease; a multitude of important interpretations originated from the arts, theology, and philosophy. In this holistic perspective, people of the present also expect medical and social aid.
Sickness and health, in their natural and cultural breadth, remind medicine of its fundamentally scientific and humanistic nature. Health and disease are concerned with life and death and are closely connected to the physical, social, psychic, and spiritual nature of humans.
Today, disease and health are conceived as more closely connected (Canguilhem; Engel). The transitions and parallels are seen more strongly, and the interplay of the body, soul, spirit, and environment is more carefully observed. Attention is shifting from infectious diseases to chronic illness and death, though the experience of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and other diseases prove the continuity of those events. The emergence of molecular medicine, with its reliance on genetic concepts of health and disease, may lead to a reintegration of the scientific and humanistic dimensions of the concepts of health and disease. The global scientific and economic limitations of medicine have made the concepts of health and disease a central topic in theory as well as in practice, for science as well as for everyday life.
Developing countries have special problems to overcome that stem from their own cultural changes and from their reception of Western medicine. The Western world must be critical of its own normative position in regard to these developing countries as in regard to its own concept of life. Disease should not be understood merely as a limitation or a loss, but also as a challenge. Coping with illness can manifest courage and compassion; meeting this challenge strengthens self-confidence, causes social reform, and enriches the world of culture.
DIETRICH VON ENGELHARDT (1 995) REVISED BY AUTHOR
SEE ALSO: Addiction and Dependence; Aging and the Aged: Anti-Aging Interventions, Ethical and Social Issues; Alcoholism; Anthropology and Bioethics; Biology, Philosophy of; Consensus, Role and Authority of; Dementia; Emotions; Feminism.; Genetics and Human Self-Understanding; Homosexuality; Insanity and Insanity Defense; Mental Illness; Metaphor and Analogy; Transhumanism and Posthumanism; and other Health and Disease subentries
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Alcoholism is something that can't be formed in easy terms. Alcoholism as a whole refers to the circumstance whereby there's an obsession in man to keep ingesting beverages with alcohol content which is injurious to health. The circumstance of alcoholism doesn't let the person addicted have any command over ingestion despite being cognizant of the damaging consequences ensuing from it.