Epidemiology and Medical Anthropology

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Epidemiology is the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events (including disease), and the application of this study to the control of diseases and other health problems. I picked the intersection of these two fields because Epidemiology is something that I have been interested in for a long time. I am currently in the undergraduate program here at Michigan State and this summer I had my first experience with Epidemiological research that I shall continue in the fall. I think that Epidemiology is an interesting field because it in itself is an interdisciplinary field and then combining the viewpoint of an medical anthropologist add an additional layer of understanding the group one is studying. Taking into account medical anthropology will cause you to think more about the culture of the area. Because often Epidemiologist find themselves asking why do we see the distribution that we have. It will be difficult to understand why people are still be infected with cholera in a small village. That is until you realize that the people of the village believe that the fluorine and chlorine compounds you provided to clean the water are seen as toxins and therefore they do not add them to the water source. It is the job of the anthropologist to learn more about the culture so that the team can come up with other methods of providing safe sustainable drinking water for the village without offending them. Another great example would be from the youtube video in this week’s lesson. It is a recording made by a medical anthropologist who mentions some of the possible ways of applying medical anthropology. The one I found very interesting was the women who of the village who during their period where been essential kicked out during those few days. This might they did not have access to things that others in the village had like water, food, and other resources. So when they starting giving women the IUD devices to decrease the rate of pregnancy they we causing the women to be isolated from the village for a longer period of time which is not going to be helpful when you think about the fact that many of the women have quite a few children to care for. This is a great example of where the anthropologist taking the time not only to learn the language but the culture and why they do the things they do can come in handy. It will allow for a level of care that may not be high but may end up being a program that individuals will follow because it goes along with their beliefs.

Sources
1. http://www.who.int/topics/epidemiology/en/
2. Tribal Jazzman Medical Anthropologist http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjDPwF9uV58

3 thoughts on “Epidemiology and Medical Anthropology

  1. Danuelle, you made several good points. Epidemiology entails a lot of factors and understanding the people in question is an important part of understanding the distribution and control of illness. A solution like adding fluorine and chlorine compounds is as good as doing nothing if the people will not utilize them. I think Anthropologist might also be able to help with not just finding the problem (whether it be cholera or alcoholism) but also coming up with a viable solution that the community can agree on and put in place. I think anthropology would be able to better offer or put in place a sustainable solution.
    I’ve already seen how this class will affect my interaction with health care and health care providers. I am a lot more cautious about drugs/prescriptions. I’m more open to alternative solutions that may be outside the biomedical field. I’m starting to be very analytical watching commercials for medicine. I just watched a 5-hour energy commercial that turned not having enough energy into an illness with symptoms and it recommended you ask your doctor if you should take 5-hour energy shots. I think I will also be more analytical about the way a doctor communicates an illness to me.

  2. I agree with Danuelle that the fields of medical anthropology and epidemiology complement each other in a very effective manner when it comes to the broader field of public health. I have learned in this class that medicine is not just about the disease itself, but about the illness experience in this course and how different factors such as cultural beliefs can influence this illness experience and thus the spread or severity of the disease itself. Although the importance of public health and disease prevention was very clear to me before, it has become clearer after being introduced to the different public health solutions illustrated in this week’s YouTube video, some of which Danuelle also mentioned. (1)

    As Danuelle mentioned, the main question that epidemiologists have is; “Why do we see the distribution that we have?” Since this is the main focus it is important to take a well rounded approach to answering this question. I feel without being educated in medical anthropology it would be relatively easy to overlook a vital cultural belief that could be a catalyst to the spread of a particular disease. If the beliefs of a culture are not considered when implementing a preventative healthcare solution, the solution would most likely not be as effected as plan due to the noncompliance from the culture in question. This would be an unnecessary waste of critical time and money all due to the neglect of power of cultural beliefs which are one of the main focuses of medical anthropology

    After taking this course, and understanding the different methods and approaches that medical anthropologists take I feel I will be more critical of the different ways that physicians choose to approach the treatment of their patients. I have job shadowed physicians before, and was more interested about what diseases or chronic medical conditions I would see the most of. In the future, when I job shadow a physician I will be attuned to the patient’s illness narratives, rather than just the biological disease. Also, I will be able to analyze the physicians approach better than before, and be able to understand if he is considering other non-medical factors that could be facilitating the disease or disorder.

    REFERENCES:

    1.) YouTube: “Medical Anthropology” -Tribal Jazzman Scholar, Episode #26

  3. I agree with Danuelle that the fields of medical anthropology and epidemiology complement each other in a very effective manner when it comes to the broader fields of public health and healthcare. I have learned in this class that medicine is not just about the disease itself, but about the illness experience and how different factors such as cultural beliefs can influence this illness experience and thus the spread or severity of the disease itself. Although the importance of public health and disease prevention was very clear to me before, it has become clearer after being introduced to the different public health solutions illustrated in this week’s YouTube video, some of which Danuelle also mentioned. (1)

    As Danuelle mentioned, the main question that epidemiologists have is; “Why do we see the distribution that we have?” Since this is the main focus it is important to take a well rounded approach to answering this question. I feel without being educated in medical anthropology it would be relatively easy to overlook a vital cultural belief that could be a catalyst to the spread of a particular disease. If the beliefs of a culture are not considered when implementing a preventative healthcare solution, the solution would most likely not be as effective as planned due to the noncompliance from the culture in question. This would be an unnecessary waste of critical time and money due to the neglect of the power of cultural beliefs which are one of the main focuses of medical anthropology

    After taking this course, and understanding the different methods and approaches that medical anthropologists utilize I feel I will be more critical of the different ways that physicians choose to approach the treatment of their patients. I have shadowed physicians before, and was most interested in what diseases or chronic medical conditions I would see the most of. In the future, when I shadow a physician I will be more attuned to the patient’s illness narrative, rather than just the biological disease. Also, I will be able to analyze the physicians approach more critically than before, and be able to understand if he/she is considering all the non-medical factors that could be facilitating the disease or disorder.

    REFERENCES:

    1.) YouTube: “Medical Anthropology” -Tribal Jazzman Scholar, Episode #26

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