The New Old (and Old New) Medical Model: Four Decades Navigating the Biomedical and Psychosocial Understandings of Health and Illness

Albert Farre, Tim Rapley

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Abstract

The importance of how disease and illness are conceptualised lies in the fact that such definition is paramount to understand the boundaries and scope of responsibility associated with medical work. In this paper, we aim to provide an overview of the interplay of these understandings in shaping the nature of medical work, philosophically, and in practice. We first discuss the emergence of the biopsychosocial model as an attempt to both challenge and broaden the traditional biomedical model. Then, we outline the main criticisms associated with the biopsychosocial model and note a range of contributions addressing the shortcomings of the model as initially formulated. Despite recurrent criticisms and uneven uptake, the biopsychosocial model has gone on to influence core aspects of medical practice, education, and research across many areas of medicine. One of these areas is adolescent medicine, which provides a particularly good exemplar to examine the contemporary challenges associated with the practical application of the biopsychosocial model. We conclude that a more optimal use of existing bodies of evidence, bringing together evidence-based methodological advances of the biopsychosocial model and existing evidence on the psychosocial needs associated with specific conditions/populations, can help to bridge the gap between philosophy and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number88
JournalHealthcare (Basel, Switzerland)
Volume5
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2017

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