chapter  5
20 Pages

RECONCEPTUALIZING HEALTH

Throughout this work the suggestion has been that conventional western ways of thinking about health miss the complexities of the health phenomenon, both in its manifestations in individuals, and in our capacity as a society to foster health and manage illness. The need for more fruitful ways of understanding health and building health systems more responsive to human need has been becoming more evident by the year. The discussion in an earlier chapter of Primary Health Care highlighted the need for a new way of thinking about health and therefore health care since that story illustrates a significant frustration on the part of many people with the results of conventional thinking about health. Put crudely (but accurately), reductionist views of health have led to sometimes grotesque imbalances in health systems with institutions of care concerning themselves principally with disease and not with health. Attention has been drawn to the decontextualization of health in western practice and the alternative views inherent in non-western health systems, as well as to the growing evidence of the centrality of context to many conditions of health and illness. This chapter sets out to draw these ideas together and ask, in the light of the discussion of the preceding chapters: can we take a further step towards finding a way of conceptualizing health which leads us forward?