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healthcare model

What's in a word?
Defining healthcare

care health soundness attention well-being oversight healthcare

The American Heritage Dictionary (AHD) definition

healthcare *: The prevention, treatment, and management of illness
and the preservation of mental and physical well-being
through the services offered
by the medical and allied health professions.

The job of the lexicographer is to furnish a concise definition that is faithful to common usage, no easy task. The job of the essayist, to present a more expanded and more personal viewpoint, is much less daunting. I shall therefore not be too critical of the AHD, but will simply use its definition of healthcare as a springboard to review the one we have unpacked and assembled in the previous pages.

In its definition, the AHD seems to distinguish between two aspects of health by including both illness and well-being. Preventing, treating and managing illness are certainly components of the problem-oriented view of healthcare. But preserving well-being does not quite capture the spirit of the goal-oriented view. Well-being is not merely a condition (of soundness or otherwise) to be preserved. Well-being is a way of moving forward toward purposes that are to be promoted, advanced, enhanced and advocated. The mission statement of Arkansas Children's Hospital includes the words "to enhance, sustain and restore the health and development of children." Although loss of soundness through injury or illness cannot be reversed, soundness can often be restored through a kind of rebuilding. To sustain is literally to hold up from underneath, a more encompassing sense than to maintain, which is simply to hold by the hand. The literal meaning of to enhance is to nurture or grow.

What's in a word?

Healthcare: the provider provides watchful oversight and close attention for the soundness and well-being of the patient

More to come...


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