medicine | Definition, Fields, Research, & Facts

Medicine, the practice concerned with the maintenance of health and the prevention, alleviation, or cure of disease.

The World Health Organization at its 1978 international conference held in the Soviet Union produced the Alma-Ata Health Declaration, which was designed to serve governments as a basis for planning health care that would reach people at all levels of society. The declaration reaffirmed that

health, which is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, is a fundamental human right and that the attainment of the highest possible level of health is a most important world-wide social goal whose realization requires the action of many other social and economic sectors in addition to the health sector.

In its widest form, the practice of medicine—that is to say, the promotion and care of health—is concerned with this ideal.

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Organization of health services

It is generally the goal of most countries to have their health services organized in such a way to ensure that individuals, families, and communities obtain the maximum benefit from current knowledge and technology available for the promotion, maintenance, and restoration of health. In order to play their part in this process, governments and other agencies are faced with numerous tasks, including the following: (1) They must obtain as much information as is possible on the size, extent, and urgency of their needs; without accurate information, planning can be misdirected. (2) These needs must then be revised against the resources likely to be available in terms of money, manpower, and materials; developing countries may well require external aid to supplement their own resources. (3) Based on their assessments, countries then need to determine realistic objectives and draw up plans. (4) Finally, a process of evaluation needs to be built into the program; the lack of reliable information and accurate assessment can lead to confusion, waste, and inefficiency.

Health services of any nature reflect a number of interrelated characteristics, among which the most obvious, but not necessarily the most important from a national point of view, is the curative function; that is to say, caring for those already ill. Others include special services that deal with particular groups (such as children or pregnant women) and with specific needs such as nutrition or immunization; preventive services, the protection of the health both of individuals and of communities; health education; and, as mentioned above, the collection and analysis of information.

Levels of health care

In the curative domain there are various forms of medical practice. They may be thought of generally as forming a pyramidal structure, with three tiers representing increasing degrees of specialization and technical sophistication but catering to diminishing numbers of patients as they are filtered out of the system at a lower level. Only those patients who require special attention either for diagnosis or treatment should reach the

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history of medicine | History & Facts

Early medicine and folklore

Unwritten history is not easy to interpret, and, although much may be learned from a study of the drawings, bony remains, and surgical tools of early humans, it is difficult to reconstruct their mental attitude toward the problems of disease and death. It seems probable that, as soon as they reached the stage of reasoning, they discovered by the process of trial and error which plants might be used as foods, which of them were poisonous, and which of them had some medicinal value. Folk medicine or domestic medicine, consisting largely in the use of vegetable products, or herbs, originated in this fashion and still persists.

But that is not the whole story. Humans did not at first regard death and disease as natural phenomena. Common maladies, such as colds or constipation, were accepted as part of existence and dealt with by means of such herbal remedies as were available. Serious and disabling diseases, however, were placed in a very different category. These were of supernatural origin. They might be the result of a spell cast upon the victim by some enemy, visitation by a malevolent demon, or the work of an offended god who had either projected some object—a dart, a stone, a worm—into the body of the victim or had abstracted something, usually the soul of the patient. The treatment then applied was to lure the errant soul back to its proper habitat within the body or to extract the evil intruder, be it dart or demon, by counterspells, incantations, potions, suction, or other means.

One curious method of providing the disease with means of escape from the body was by making a hole, 2.5 to 5 cm across, in the skull of the victim—the practice of trepanning, or trephining. Trepanned skulls of prehistoric date have been found in Britain, France, and other parts of Europe and in Peru. Many of them show evidence of healing and, presumably, of the patient’s survival. The practice still exists among some tribal people in parts of Algeria, in Melanesia, and perhaps elsewhere, though it is fast becoming extinct.

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Magic and religion played a large part in the medicine of prehistoric or early human society. Administration of a vegetable drug or remedy by mouth was accompanied by incantations, dancing, grimaces, and all the tricks of the magician. Therefore, the first doctors, or “medicine men,” were witch doctors or sorcerers. The use of charms and talismans, still prevalent in modern times, is of ancient origin.

Apart from the treatment of wounds and broken bones, the folklore of medicine is probably the most ancient aspect of the art of healing, for primitive physicians showed their wisdom by treating the whole person, soul as well as body. Treatments and medicines that produced no physical effects on the body could nevertheless make a patient feel better when both healer and patient believed in their efficacy. This so-called

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10 Surprising Health Facts | realbuzz.com

Healthy Life


With regular studies published on health and fitness, it can be difficult to keep up with all of the information out there. Some of the findings repeat health advice that’s been around for years, but others are a little more shocking. Take a look at these 10 health facts that might surprise you.


With regular studies published on health and fitness, it can be difficult to keep up with all of the information out there. Some of the findings repeat health advice that’s been around for years, but others are a little more shocking. Take a look at these 10 health facts that might surprise you.


1

Drinking coffee can prevent depression

We hear a lot about the negative effects of caffeine on our health, but it turns out that caffeine has its good points too. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health found that women who drank a minimum of four cups of coffee per day could lower their risk of depression by 20 per cent. Earlier research also found that females who drank two or more cups per day were less likely to commit suicide.

2

Chewing gum makes you more alert

If your suffering from a mid-afternoon slump or can’t seem to concentrate in the morning, then try chewing some gum to make you feel awake. Coventry University researchers found that chewing mint flavoured gum dramatically reduced feelings of tiredness. Another study on the subject found that chewing gum can improve overall test scores and memory by 35 per cent, relieve stress and reduce anxiety levels.

3

Sitting at a desk can increase death risk by almost 50 per cent

Office workers beware, as research from the University of Sydney found that office workers who sit for longer than 10 hours a day at their desk had a 48 per cent increase in risk of death, in comparison to people who sat for less than four hours a day. To counteract this health risk, try to introduce five minutes of activity every hour and make sure you take regular breaks away from your workstation. Simple changes like taking the stairs instead of the lift will also make a positive difference to your health.

4

ATM machines and public toilets are equally dirty

Withdrawing money from a cash machine is something may of us do regularly, but how many of us give our hands a wash after using them? Cleanliness tests carried out in Britain found that ATM machines were as dirty as the toilets. Specialists investigated swabs taken from the cash machine keyboards and from public toilets nearby and found both samples had the same bacteria known to lead to sickness.

5

If you’re an optimist, it could help you live longer

According to a study from Duke University Medical Center, heart patients who were more optimistic about their treatment, actually lived longer than those who were more pessimistic in their mindsets. Also, according to findings of a study published in the European Heart

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The History of Medicine: 7 Surprising Facts

Maintaining a comfortable state of health is a goal shared by much of the world’s population past and present, thus the history of health and medicine weaves a thread connecting us with our ancestors’ human experiences. Yet it’s easy to assume that studying it involves either celebrating the ‘eureka moments’ of well-known heroes or laughing at outdated therapies. But, as I set out to show in my book, The History of Medicine in 100 Facts (Amberley Publishing, 2015), medicine’s past features plenty of lesser-known but equally fascinating episodes…

1

Some of the earliest named doctors were women

Saqqara is a huge archaeological site about 20 miles south of present-day Cairo. Five millennia ago it was the necropolis for the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis, and remains home to one of the oldest surviving buildings in the world – the step pyramid of Djoser.

A nearby tomb reveals the image of Merit Ptah, the first female doctor known by name. She lived in approximately 2,700 BC and hieroglyphs on the tomb describe her as ‘the Chief Physician’. That’s pretty much all that’s known about her career, but the inscription reveals that it was possible for women to hold high-status medical roles in Ancient Egypt.

Some 200 years later another doctor, Peseshet, was immortalised on a monument in the tomb of her son, Akhet-Hetep (aka Akhethetep), a high priest. Peseshet held the title ‘overseer of female physicians’, suggesting that women doctors weren’t just occasional one-offs. Peseshet herself was either one of them or a director responsible for their organisation and training.

Although the barriers of time and interpretation make it difficult to reconstruct the day-to-day practice of Merit Ptah and Peseshet, female doctors appear to have been a respected part of ancient Egyptian society.

An anatomical chart of the human body, from the 15th-century Tractatabus de Pestilentia (Treatise on Plague). (Photo by The Art Archive/Alamy)

2

Cataract surgery was possible in the sixth century BC

One of the oldest known medical textbooks is the Sushruta Samhita, written in Sanskrit in India. Its exact date is tentative, as no original version survives and it is only known from later copies, but the current consensus is that it was written in around 600 BC. Sushruta is thought to have been a physician and teacher working in the North Indian city of Benares (now Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh). His Samhita – a compilation of knowledge – provides detailed information on medicine, surgery, pharmacology and patient management.

Sushruta advises his students that however well read they are, they are not competent to treat disease until they have practical experience. Surgical incisions were to be tried out on the skin of fruits, while carefully extracting fruit seeds enabled the student to develop the skill of removing foreign bodies from flesh. They also practised on dead animals and on leather bags filled with water, before being let loose on real patients.

Among its many surgical descriptions, the Sushruta Samhita documents cataract surgery. The patient had to look at the tip of his or her nose while the surgeon, holding the eyelids apart with thumb and

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State Health Facts | The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Mental Health and Substance Use

This data collection provides information at the state level regarding overall poor mental health status, mental illness and major depressive disorder, suicidal thoughts and suicide rates, opioid use and overdose, and dependence on alcohol or illicit drugs.

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Medicaid Behavioral Health Services Database

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) contracted with Health Management Associates (HMA) to survey Medicaid directors in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to identify those behavioral health services covered for adult beneficiaries in their programs.

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Medicaid Benefits Database

This data collection reflects Medicaid benefits covered in each state, limitations applied to those benefits, and cost-sharing requirements as of July 1, 2018.

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Custom State Reports

Compile data from hundreds of State Health Facts indicators on health coverage, access, and costs, as well as demographic and economic data, into interactive custom reports for a single state or multiple states.

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Medicaid State Fact Sheets

What percentage of people are covered by Medicaid in your state? Our State Medicaid fact sheets provide a snapshot with key data for Medicaid in every state related to current coverage, access, and financing, as well as a politics section for each state.

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Medicaid Managed Care Market Tracker

The Medicaid Managed Care Market Tracker houses extensive information about states, MCOs, and managed care firms to support understanding and analysis of the growing Medicaid managed care market.

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Section 1115 Medicaid Waiver Tracker

This Medicaid waiver tracker page aggregates tracking information on pending and approved Section 1115 Medicaid waivers. It includes resources such as an overview map and figure, detailed waiver topic tables, and explanatory briefs.

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Section 1332 State Innovation Waiver Tracker

This interactive map shows the status of all Section 1332 waivers requested by states. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows states to apply for innovation waivers to alter key ACA requirements in the individual and small group insurance markets and can be used to shore up fragile insurance markets, address unique state insurance market issues, or experiment with alternative models of providing coverage to state residents.

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Medicaid Policy Action Trends

For 18 years, the Kaiser Program on Medicaid and the Uninsured (KPMU) and Health Management Associates (HMA) have conducted annual surveys of Medicaid programs across the country. This data collection pulls together state by state information on select policy actions taken by state Medicaid programs collected through this survey.

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Medicare Health and Prescription Drug Plans

The Medicare Health and Prescription Drug Plan Tracker enables users to monitor trends in enrollment, market penetration and other topics for Medicare Advantage plans since 1999 and stand-alone Medicare drug plans since 2006 by state, county and other sub-state geographies.

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Mapping Medicaid Delivery System and Payment Reform

This interactive provides state-by-state data on Medicaid delivery system and payment reform initiatives. Users can track state Medicaid managed care, patient-centered medical home (PCMH), Health Home, Accountable Care Organization (ACO), and Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) waiver

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