Global health and Medical Anthropology

Years and years back, I checked out a book from the public library about the use of forensic anthropology to identify the bones that are still being found in areas like Vietnam and Korea and how those soldiers are being identified and returned to their families. Seeing as my grandmother had been permanently affected by how her cousin was declared POW/MIA in Vietnam, this sparked my interest in anthropology. Though I am an avid fan of the show Bones, unlike most people assume, I am not in this business to “work with a hot guy”. Or dig things up in Egypt (though I would like to dig things up here). I went into college at Oakland University as an anthropology major not really understanding what I was getting into. Especially since coming to MSU, I have gained countless knowledge about what it means to be an anthropologist: everything. Anthropology will invade your field of practice and completely turn your way of thinking around, as we have seen here in the medical field. I often wonder what would be the result of having an anthropologist for president – someone who understands global health from a medical anthropological perspective, that culture is a bit more complicated than “Somalia is starving, we have extra corn, let’s give them corn”.

Something that got my attention in previous anthropology courses is the concept of “volunteer tourism”, where people volunteer on a two week or so trip to do things like fly to Africa and help starving children. Or, similarly, the fact that first year medical students are being flown to Africa to practice on third world patients. From an anthropological perspective this is very, very damaging and if I were working for an NGO or similar institution that basically exported “medical care”  I would definitely work to shed light on these issues. As explained in the reading, though it may not always be the case, culture plays a huge role in biomedicine and these factors need to be taken into account on a global perspective.

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