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Sarvesh Singh, Pratap Shankar*, Dheeraj Kumar Singh, Amod Kumar Sachan and Rakesh Kumar Dixit


Holistic health care is perceived to be good, both morally and practically but it is difficult to find either any clear enunciation of what constitutes holistic healthcare, or any clear explanation of its practical utility. The current understanding of illness is, in contrast, linear and reductionist. It assumes that all illness starts with a disorder within the body causing bodily symptoms that lead on to disability and restrictions on social life. The term itself does not signify what those factors are or how they are classified. The word holistic is also used to suggest a morally better and often an alternative non-allopathic treatment approach to illness. Illness is then shown to be a socially determined state whereby the patient may initiate being ill but it requires others, usually healthcare professionals to validate illness before it is fully accepted. This review demonstrates that this model is flawed in several ways: the underlying assumptions are false, it cannot explain functional (socalled non-organic) illnesses which are common, and it does not lead to well-managed healthcare systems. The biopsychosocial approach to illness is then explored,. The model is expanded to recognise four systems centred on the person – organs, the whole person, behaviour, and social role function – and four contextual factors that influence these systems – personal factors, physical environment, social environment, and time. The new model also draws attention to two important components of any holistic model of health, choice (freewill) and quality of life. The implications of the holistic model of health care both for clinical care and for the management of healthcare systems are then discussed, emphasizing the complex nature of healthcare and the social aspects of illness. The important overall conclusion from this paper is that health and illness should be seen as socially construed states that involve a whole person in their own context in the current scenario.

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