Understanding Health and Illness

Woodthorpe, Kate and Simons, Joan (2010). Understanding Health and Illness. In: Kubiak, Chris and Leach, Jonathan eds. Book 1 Exploring Health, Social Care and Wellbeing. The Open University: The Open University, pp. 28–50.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-137-01420-7_8


Health and illness are interesting issues to study because they can mean different things to different people, at different times and in different places. This complexity has implications for how people access and benefit from health and social care services. Health can include a great many things, such as healthiness, illness, lifestyles, your sense of wellbeing, medication, disease prevention and so on. Health can be understood and represented at a range of levels, too, from the individual level (the health of a person) to families, communities, organisations, through to societies and even the global population. With it being such a wide-ranging concept, how can you start to make sense of it?

In this chapter you will examine different meanings and theoretical approaches to health and illness. It may help you at this early stage to think about theory as a tool you can use to make sense of your own (and others’) actions and expectations in relation to health and social care.

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