I think that the ethnomedical approach would be best for studying health because it looks both at how the culture looks at health and illness, and how individuals seek out help for those diseases and illnesses, so it gives a broad and pretty comprehensive look at any kind of problem.


The distinction between disease and illness is that disease is a physical result of some kind of infection or other pathogenic cause, where as illness in something that separates an individual from normal, whether it’s a mental illness because their mind does not work the way a “normal” mind might and etc. The distinction is pretty easy for me to make, having a little bit of a background in the medical world and a pretty solid understanding of diseases and their effects on the body. Illnesses are a bit harder for me to distinguish, mostly because there are so many more factors that define an illness, even socially and culturally, so it’s more of a spectrum of things instead of a specific effect.


The culture that Miner is talking about is the American culture. It definitely took me two reads through the article to figure this out though. The first read I thought that all of the rituals sounded really bizarre and the second time I read it I noticed all of the things that were spelled backwards and really felt a little silly when I started recognizing all of the rituals.


One of the first rituals that Miner mentions is the sacred box within the shrine. I think this says a lot about how we treat health and medicine. We focus so much on using drugs and prescriptions to treat all of our problems with disease and illness. Another ritual I thought was interesting was his look into hospitals and how we have to pay so much to go to hospitals and have procedures done and then get charged for release. Finally I really enjoyed how he looked into how we treat going to the bathroom and just personal cleanliness in general. Its such a taboo thing to talk about going to the bathroom or to be unclean.

1 thought on “Ethnomedical

  1. I had a very hard time picking just one approach so I ended up choosing both the biological and ecological approaches because to me I feel this combination will be the most useful and applicable to my area of interest, public health. The two are intertwined because while the biological approach emphasizes evolutionary processes and how populations respond to environmental stressors such as diseases, the ecological approach incorporates how these populations relate to their environments to understand how the diseases will spread. I did however consider the ethnomedical approach because of its focus on cultural definitions and practices like you stated and I thought this might apply to public health in an international sense. The ethnomedical approach could also be beneficial for me to understand that every society has their own medical system and protocols for treating illnesses, along with healing processes.
    The sacred box within the shrine did make me realize how presently as a culture we rely so heavily on prescription medications when our bodies really are equipped to heal themselves for many illnesses given enough time and rest. Even when Miner wrote this article he pointed out how we won’t get rid of any old medications because we think someday they will help cure us, and I think our dependence on medications has only grown since then. I think the bit about going to the hospitals could be updated with mentions of insurance to gain access to doctors. I feel that current ideologies about going to the bathroom though have remained fairly the same and it is still a taboo subject in our culture.

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