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Health (Key Concepts)


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Table of Contents

Introduction. 1. How is health defined? Health as the absence of illness. Disease as deviance. Health as balance or homeostasis. Health as function. Health as state or status. The biomedical model. Contemporary biomedicine. The social model. Health, disease, illness and sickness. How is health measured? Health capital. 2. How is health constructed? Health as social construction. Constructions of history. Constructions of culture. Constructivism and feminism. Illness, labelling and stigma. Constructions of mental illness. Constructions of disability. The critique of relativism. Medicalisation and the constructions of medical practice. 3. How is health embodied and experienced? Embodiment. Lay definitions of health. Social representations of health. Self-rated health. Concepts of the causes of health and illness. Health histories and subjective health capital. Illness narratives. Limitations of narrative. The search for meaning. Health as moral discourse and metaphor. Responsibility for health. 4. How is health enacted? The rise and fall of 'illness behaviour'. Person to patient: help-seeking behaviour. The patient role. Control and concordance. Enacted behaviour. Behaving 'healthily'. Structure/agency: health as cultural consumption. Structure/agency: health as self-governance. 5. How is health related to social systems? A functional relationship. Responses to functionalism. Medicine and society. Health, economic development and social organization. The downside of economic development. The concept of inequality in health. The nature and extent of inequalities. The causes of inequality. The socio-biologic translation. Neo-materialistic explanations. Social capital. 6. Contemporary change in the meaning of health. Technology and postmodernity. Changing boundaries between ill and not-ill. Changing boundaries of life and death. Changing boundaries between self and not-self. Changing boundaries between therapy and enhancement. Information technologies and medical practice. Changing attitudes to health and medicine. New technologies and the risk society. Evolutionary medicine. Conclusion. References. Index.

About the Author

Mildred Blaxter is Hon. Professor of Medical Sociology at the Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol.


"A great text: revised and updated for students of health, whatever their discipline or background. Changes in science, technology and our understanding of the body are among the many important topics covered. Mildred Blaxter writes in a lucid style and has a command of her material that is second to none. Highly recommended." Mike Bury, Royal Holloway, University of London "Updated and with new material, this book provides a fascinating insight into the phenomenon of health and how it is defined, constructed, expressed and experienced. Written in a clear and engaging style, it is an indispensable resource for students and researchers in the health and social sciences." Ellen Annandale, University of Leicester "This fine book takes sociological perspectives of health as a point of departure, while at the same time increasing our understanding of illness. Students and professionals alike will benefit from Blaxter's clear and succinct presentation." Peter Conrad, Brandeis University

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