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Monday, September 04, 2006

Taxonomy of Holistic Health

A Systems View of Health and Disease by Howard Brody and David Sobel, provides a hierarchical arrangement of living systems...beginning with atoms, molecules, cells, organs, persons, family/group, organizations, societies, homosapiens, and finally the biosphere, where health is seen as the “ability of a system (for example, cell, organism, family, society) to respond adaptively to a wise variety of environmental challenges (for example physical, chemical, infectious, psychological, social).” This view of health was adapted from the work of Dubos. Health is considered a process not a static state of being whereas disease is a seen as a “failure to respond adaptively to environmental challenges resulting in a disruption the overall equilibrium of the system.” Because all the levels are interconnected, a breakdown or malfunction in one area has resulting effects upon the other systems. Generally western society has focused upon the lower levels of functioning, for instance the virus most immediately responsible for an illness. This fails to account for the process of resistance, health, or the resulting effect upon the other surrounding systems which may aide or interfere in the process of disease or health. Not only is it possible to more effectively manage disease once it occurs through multiply interventions directed at various levels in the hierarchy, it is often possible to prevent disease throughout these same routes. But, the systems view of health accounts for more than simply the prevention or cure of a disease, it also recognizes that a disease may not be prevented...in this case it is necessary to confine the disease process so that it does not affect other levels in the hierarchy. This recognizes the possibility of healthy living with a disease or illness, once again reaffirming the individuals control over the illness and promoting the opportunity for growth.
The level of the disease does not necessarily determine the level of the intervention although it should be noted that intervention at one level often produces great impact upon other levels. Take for example nutrition. The chemical reaction of better nutrition would be noted on the individual, the organs, and down to the atomic level. Likewise, nutritional intervention would likely entail educating the family and close relationships on proper food preparation and nutritional content. Even on a societal level it is possible to see restaurants and food packaging recognizing the need for some special diets by providing for these needs. Each exerts an influence upon the other. Health promotion acts as a mediate between the traditional western view of the treatment of disease and symptoms, and the more proactive and inclusive nature of the framework provided by the systems view of health and disease.

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