I chose to elaborate on epidemiology and medical anthropology because I am interested in pursuing a public health degree, and epidemiology is an important aspect of public health. It will apply to my future career because I hope to provide health care to underprivileged communities around the globe, and understanding epidemiology and the distribution of illnesses is a vital component of public health. Through epidemiology, risk factors for disease can be identified, allowing for preventive medicine to inhibit the development and spread of diseases in a given community.
An anthropological view on epidemiology, particularly the applied anthropological approach, would be useful because it focuses on research and analysis for a specific problem and client, which is the basis of epidemiology. It would also be helpful so preventive measures can be developed and applied in specific contexts within communities because these solutions may not translate to different populations. As an epidemiologist, it will be of value to incorporate the cultural values of anthropology into medical practices. Culture is a huge factor in how populations will respond to treatments and the Kleinman and Benson article emphasizes that culture is not static but rather dynamic and comprised of multiple variables.
The Youtube video from this weeks materials emphasizes the importance of taking an anthropological approach to medicine and how important culture is in the treatment of illnesses. The video describes how a woman tried to prevent the spread of E. Coli in water from cattle farming in Peru because it was causing intestinal problems such as dysentery and young children were dying of dehydration. She raised money to campaign for boiling water and went through villages to teach women how to boil water to kill the parasites causing the infections. It seemed as though the village was responsive to her efforts, but when she returned to follow up she found people weren’t boiling their water because they believed it held the spirit of the Earth, which would be destroyed when they boiled it. Because cultural context was not taken into consideration in this case, the effort failed. Another example occurred in Ecuador, where intrauterine devices were distributed to women who wanted less pregnancies. However in this culture, menstruating women are secluded and can’t handle food, leaving their children without care. The IUD’s increased the length and severity of menstrual bleeding, which was problematic for this village. These instances emphasize the importance of considering the anthropological approach while administering treatments, as they should be culturally defined within relevance to the context of a culture.