concepts of disease: comparing holistic vs. traditional points of view
Research Proposal: Concepts of Disease –Holistic Point of View Perfectly Conceptualizes Disease and Health
Concepts of Disease – Comparing Holistic and Traditional Points of View
Introduction: Starting Position and Context
The concepts of disease and health have been philosophically described. However, it remains difficult to get a conceptual grip on the term “Health” and “disease” because of the various concepts that describe the two terms. Hurbert Gadamer describes “Health” as “a clandestine gift and wonder of absentmindedness” (Hucklenbroich, 2018, p.126). This description highlights plenty of efforts that have been focused on preventing illnesses and health promotion. Ideally, “clandestine health and disease” are often conceived as self-made placing the concept of disease and health as a cause of medical attention. The main question to ask is, therefore, how the situation of seeking medical attention can be conceptualized.
Primarily, conceptualization of “health” and “disease” has been in existence for the longest time. Today, two main points of view describe health and disease: the traditional and holistic points of view. The traditional concept of health defines it as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (Charlier et al., 2017, p.35). Disease, on the other hand, is defined as the deviation from the normal biological functioning of the body- for instance, a naturalist account, Kingma (2017) states that disease is mainly manifested physically because of the abnormalities in the functioning of biological processes. This definition is derived from the naturalist accounts. The World Health Organization developed these definitions and written in their 1946 Constitution. Different theories have been developed to expound on the definition of disease, — for instance, naturalist state that disease is purely biological. The deviation from the normal functioning of the body is defined purely in biological terms. In contrast, normativists deny that disease is purely biological- instead; the definition of a disease is dependent on a value judgment.
It has been over 80 years since WHO came up with traditional definitions of health and disease. Because of the changing dynamics in medical practice, such as the emergence of other forms of illnesses and the shift to evidenced practice, new points of views have been put in place to describe the disease. One of them is the holistic point of view, which considers an individual’s mind, body and spirit when describing their disease and health (Witt et al., 2017). Witt et al. go against the traditional view of describing a disease which focuses on the biological functions. To them, a person must be spiritually stable, mentally healthy, and in perfect physical condition to be considered disease-free. In essence, implementing a holistic approach to prevent diseases means to go beyond just eliminating the disease, but ensuring they are spiritually and mentally healthy. It is, however, difficult to conceptualize “disease,” especially when the current medical practice is patient-centered. Therefore, the purpose of the study would be to compare holistic and traditional care by critically evaluating the different theories describing health and disease. The study will focus the naturalist and normativist accounts of disease by evaluating whether the disease is purely biological or based on a value judgment. The study will rely on previous studies to evaluate holistic and traditional health concepts.
Research Question and Arguments
The study will focus on two clear arguments. The first argument is whether health should be treated as a state of complete physical, social and mental well-being, or as the combination of mind, body, and spirit. The second argument is whether the disease should be defined purely as abnormal biological processes or as a value judgment by focusing on the body, mind, and spirit of the patient. Therefore, disease and health should be defined based on the holistic point of view.
Hypothesis: Physical, mental and spiritual aspects of a person’s life are fundamental in describing disease and health.
The research paper will be divided into four parts: Introduction, Literature Review, Evaluation, and Conclusion. The introduction will entail the definition of terms, a discussion of the traditional and holistic points of view and the history of conceptualizing health and disease. The literature review will discuss various studies that have studied both traditional and holistic approaches to care and retrieve facts and information about the two approaches. The evaluation section will use information obtained from reviewing previous studies to evaluate the ideal concept for the contemporary health care practice. The last section will, therefore, conclude by stating how the holistic point of view effectively conceptualizes disease and health based on the facts obtained from reviewing literature. The expected outcome of the study is a demonstration that disease is not simply the abnormal function of the biological process of a patient, but their state of mind, body, and spirit.
The concept of health is hard to fathom. However, different studies have tried to describe it using different theories. Murphy (2015) describes health using two theories: naturalism and constructivism. Naturalists contend that the human body is comprised of organs with natural functions. When the organs function normally, the person is considered health while when they do not function, it is a disease. Schramme (2012) also describes health and disease from a mental point of view. According to Schramme health or disease is determined by a combination of mind and body. The abnormal changes in the biological functioning of the body have psychological effects on the patient, which leads to the deterioration of their health. Ideally, the two authors demonstrate the wealth of studies that have been conducted to conceptualize “health” and “disease.” Therefore, the study will rely on these and more studies to demonstrate why the holistic point of view effectively conceptualizes disease.
Lastly, defining disease from the perspective of mind, body, and spirit helps in philosophically describing the disease. From a philosophical point of view, a disease-free person will be physically normal, mentally healthy and spiritually stable. Therefore, the assumption that disease should be described from a holistic point of view will add to the philosophical descriptions of disease and health.
Charlier, P., Coppens, Y., Malaurie, J., Brun, L., Kepanga, M., Hoang-Opermann, V.,& Deo, S. (2017). A new definition of health? An open letter of autochthonous peoples and medical anthropologists to the WHO. European journal of internal medicine, 37, 33-37.
Hucklenbroich, P. (2018). “Disease” as a theoretical Concept of Medicine: Differences between life-world and scientific Disease Concept. Journal for General Philosophy of Science, 49(1), 23-58.
Kingma, E. (2017). Health, Disease, and Naturalism: Hausman on the Public Value of Health. Public Health Ethics, 10(2), 109-121.
Murphy, D. (2015). Concepts of Disease and Health. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Access at https://plato.stanford.edu/ archives / spr2015 / entries / health-disease
Schramme, T. (2012). Classic Disease theories. Hamburg University. Germany.
Witt, C. M., Chiaramonte, D., Berman, S., Chesney, M. A., Kaplan, G. A., Stange, K. C.,& Berman, B. M. (2017). Defining health in a comprehensive context: A new definition of integrative health. American journal of preventive medicine, 53(1), 134-137.
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