Ethnomedical

I chose the ethnomedical approach because I think that the meanings of health and illness are truthfully in the eye of the beholder.  Different cultures see illness and disease differently and have different treatments.  Every culture and nation does not know about “western” medicine.  Even within the united states, doctors treat patients that may not agree with the treatment that the doctor prescribes or may not understand the implications of a diagnosis.  Much of this does depend of the level of education, but it also depends on the traditional beliefs of a culture and the resources available to them.  An example that makes an argument for the ethnomedical approach would be in the case of Lia Lee. Her story is told in the book “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures” by Anne Fadiman.  Lia’s family members are Hmong refugees from Laos.  Lia is also epileptic and there is a clash between her family’s spiritual beliefs of the disease and the doctors scientific approach.  Her family doesn’t understand the true implications of her epilepsy, the reasons that she has to take the medicine. The doctors have no understanding of the Hmong culture and how to communicate to Lia’s family the seriousness of her condition. This misunderstanding of both sides causes Lia’s condition to worsen over time.

I think that disease and illness are sometimes interpreted as being the same, but I do that I understand how they are different.  Disease is considered the physical abnormalities and biological symptoms seen clinically.  Illness is based more on the cultural beliefs and experiences of a person and their perceptions of what is healthy.

The culture that Miner is talking about it American culture.  I had a little chuckle after reading through the second paragraph. As I was reading about the location I had an inkling that it was the United States and then when it talked about George Washington that is when I definitely knew.

Miner talks about how people have shrines to avert ugliness and the more affluent a family is the more shrines they have in their household.  These shrines would be bathrooms.   Americans are all about cleanliness and the bathroom is where you get clean. It’s were you take care of your appearance.  The part I found interesting is how Miner interpreted the dentist. Personally, I am always looking at people’s teeth.  Having a good teeth that are healthy is way of telling if a person is in good overall health, it ups the attractiveness of a person, and also can show the social standing of a person.  At the end Miner talks about how human sexuality is taboo, but in other cultures it is not. He also talks about how Americans actively use family planning methods and pregnant women wear clothes to cover up their pregnant bodies.  In other cultures, people are more open about sexuality, pregnancy is openly displayed because it is a sign of health, and less is understood about conception.

6 thoughts on “Ethnomedical

  1. I chose the Biological Approach to be the most useful when studying health. Especially with western medicine today, I think there are a number of factors that determine one’s health. Physical environment, genetics, and personal choice are the three factors of influence that were mentioned along with the biological approach. I’m really glad personal choice was a factor mentioned. I believe people have a lot of control over their level well being. Take obesity for example. Although there are many cases where being obese is a genetic factor, a lot of the time, it can be managed through diet and exercise, which is personal choice.

    Miner talked a lot about “shrines” in peoples homes, meaning bathrooms. And you also mentioned the detail about ugliness. That is what stood out to me the most. I feel people these days assume the worst of themselves based on appearance, and that is why we are seeing more and more of plastic surgery, and botox. Those things are really unnecessary. I agree with your opinion on the dentist. I think having good teeth is a sign of being a healthy person, because it means you care about your body.

  2. I picked the biological approach as being most useful to me. The topics associated with it—genetics, environment, and individual choice are probably the first things I think of when it comes to the topic of health. These things can often be the cause of health issues. But then they are also used to help treat health issues. Genetics is necessary when dealing with all the diseases out there. Understanding environmental hazards can help people know what kind of precautions to take like if they work at a job with dangerous chemicals. Good individual choices can people live a healthy lifestyle. To me this approach just seems pretty central to health.
    I think back when Miner wrote the article good oral hygiene, healthy teeth, were important. He said, “Were it not for the rituals of the mouth, they believe that their teeth would fall out, their gums bleed, their jaws shrink, their friends desert them, and their lovers reject them.” That sounds pretty serious. But these days I think it is even more important. For a lot of people the first thing they look at is someone’s teeth, but now that does not just mean having healthy teeth they also have to be super straight and super white. People spend a ton of money, and go through a bit of pain to get those results.

  3. Like everyone else commenting on your post, I chose the biological approach, but you make a strong argument for the ethnomedical approach. I especially was interested in the book you mentioned; it’s scary to think that for how precise and cutting-edge American healthcare is, cultural misunderstandings like this can cause serious problems. Anyway, I chose the biological approach since it examines and explains the actual progression of disease. Knowing how gene malfunctions, pathogens, and harmful lifestyles can impair the body is crucial for me to best understand why people get sick and what can heal them.
    Like you, I wrote about the Nacerima article’s take on dental care. I think this pressure of our society has gotten even stronger in the past few decades, to the point where manually straightening our teeth through orthodontics is considered normal. I think human sexuality has come more to the forefront in today’s media, but that it’s still a taboo subject for many, rather than being considered something entirely natural, as you said it is in other cultures.

  4. I also chose the biological approach. I feel that it is one of the best lens to view health and illness through since it advocates learning through genetics, personal choice and your environment. All three have a tremendous impact on a persons health, and any one of the three can cause a person to be ill. Another reason I like this approach is because while using it, you can easily identify the aspect that is causing issues. This makes it easier to correct the situation if possible and also makes it easier (in my mind) to understand how the issues is interacting with your body.
    In my opinion the rituals discusses in the Nacerima article are still entirely relevant in today’s society. People are almost obsessive about oral hygiene and a persons teeth can effect many aspects of their life. It can close off potential career choices (although interestingly enough it does not open many) and can easily be used to determine if a person is affluent enough to afford health care. The perception of pregnancy is also fairly important. Even though it is a vital part of life, American society values physical appearance so much that pregnant women feel they must attempt to cover up their pregnancy.

  5. Along with everyone else commenting here, I chose the biological approach. However, I really liked the ethnomedical approach as well. I find it to be an interesting, thorough, and useful way to look at and study the medical field, especially being an anthro major. I agreed with everything you said about it (especially found the example interesting, would be interested in reading that book). If I were to have picked more than one approach, I would have picked that, applied, and biological (ideally all but those are my top), however we were supposed to pick one so I picked biological. It just seemed to be the most straight forward as far as health itself, and being so immersed in the health field (having a health condition, working in it, studying to go farther in it) it seemed like the right fit. It covers the main factors of health & illness: genetics, environment/surroundings, and ones choices, all of which have significant impact on ones health (or unhealth)

    With the miner article, I think you did a great job of comparing what he said to todays society/culture & health, and completely agree with everything that you said. The only things that might need updating from when the article was written are, society is even more conscious of and obscessed with their teeth than they were then (bleaching, straightening, etc.), and I don’t think that pregnancy is much more embraced and seen as beautiful (pregnant women can show their bodies more freely).

  6. Along with everyone else commenting here, I chose the biological approach. However, I really liked the ethnomedical approach as well. I find it to be an interesting, thorough, and useful way to look at and study the medical field, especially being an anthro major. I agreed with everything you said about it (especially found the example interesting, would be interested in reading that book). If I were to have picked more than one approach, I would have picked that, applied, and biological (ideally all approaches but those are my top), however we were supposed to pick one so I picked biological. It just seemed to be the most straight forward as far as health itself, and being so immersed in the health field (having a health condition, working in it, studying to go farther in it) it seemed like the right fit. It covers the main factors of health & illness: genetics, environment/surroundings, and ones choices, all of which have significant impact on ones health (or unhealth)

    With the miner article, I think you did a great job of comparing what he said to todays society/culture & health, and completely agree with everything that you said. The only things that might need updating from when the article was written are, society is even more conscious of and obscessed with their teeth than they were then (bleaching, straightening, etc.), and I think that pregnancy is much more embraced and seen as beautiful (pregnant women can show their bodies more freely).

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