The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or injury.
There is a whole lot of different phenomenon or contrasting views about what health entails.
For instance, a laypersons tend to view health as the capacity to carry out their daily activities – they view health as simply the ability to function, which is somewhat vague in definition.
In the early days, primitive humans tended to rely on magic as the fundamental explanation of disease and illness.
Hippocrates of ancient Greece represents first attempt to base understanding of the body on rational thought; recognizes contribution of the environment to human well-being.
Middle ages introduces a split in responsibility for human well-being: Church attends to social needs while physicians focus on physical ailments.
Early sociologists did not give much attention to matters of health and medicine. They were ignored by the founding fathers in the 19th century because it did not appear to shape the structure and nature of the society.
Rudolf Virchow and many others over the past two centuries saw the extent to which disease and epidemics derived from the material conditions of living and the social stratification of society. An enormous body of research and analysis has confirmed this observation in more recent years in relation to mortality as a whole and to a wide range of diseases and disabilities.
Today, Modern medicine rejects supernatural explanations for disease and treats it as an object to be studied, confronted scientifically, and controlled.
Medical practice gives little attention to social causes of health and instead focuses on treating disease and illness with drugs.
However, Sociologists and Anthropologists are interested in health matters because they want to enhance medical education. Medical sociology, for example, has had long involvement in the study of medical education, dating from the 1950s. Educators sought assistance from sociologists in improving curricula and in understanding better how to structure education to deal with the stresses of training, reduce unethical behavior, improve selection processes, and induce more thoughtful inquiring behavior on how to transform students into better medical professionals. Many sociologists sharing these goals with medical educators did excellent studies on such issues as examining medical education in terms of its values and contradictions. In short, they sort to learn more about health matters to impact their knowledge to transform students into better medical professionals.
Again, sociologists and anthropologists are interested in matters of health because most health problems are caused by the working and living conditions of people. People work under hash and unsanitary conditions and therefore are always at risk of contracting various diseases. People who work in factories for instance pay little attention to the fumes that are emitted and therefore do not wear any protective covers such as nose mask, googles etc. Sometimes these fumes may be toxic and the constant exposure could put the individual at various health risk. Most communities in Ghana have bushy and dirty surroundings, with refuse piled up on the streets. These are breeding grounds for insects and pests such as mosquitoes, houseflies, cockroaches, mice etc. These insects inflict various kinds of diseases on the individual through their activities. For instance, a bite from a mosquito (Female anopheles mosquito) causes Malaria. Cholera, Diarrhea and other epidemics are cause by dirty surroundings.
These reasons explains why sociologists and anthropologists have a higher stake in matters of health.