I picked the intersection of global health and medical anthropology because it is of the most interest to me. Last spring I took ANP 320 and my professor talked about her research about medical students treating patients in Malawi. I thought it was interesting that rather than analyzing a different medical system in a different country, she analyzed and critiqued an American medical system working in a different country. I majored in History, philosophy, and sociology of science so I find it very interesting to look at how different cultures understand health and the body and especially the incongruencies between western medical systems and others. Although I find this area interesting, it has nothing to do with future career. I decided to leave the world of healthcare two years ago and pursue a greater passion, literature.
If I was working as a health care provider such as a doctor, nurse, or in a NGO providing health care to people within a different cultural context, taking an anthropological approach would be helpful to create the most effective treatment plans for patients. It is important to understand how people understand the body and how it works so that you can treat patients, or even just explain treatment plans, in a way that makes sense in their cultural context and does not violate their beliefs. One example of this brings me back to a few weeks ago when we read about treating Hmong patients in California. Because their ideas of illness are more focus on the spirit and not on the body, our biomedical explanation does not seem to correlate well. Also, many of our treatment plans such as surgery violate body taboos and would not even make sense as a treatment for a spirit problem. CITE. A second way that taking an anthropological approach would be helpful is that it can help one learn which topics are all right to talk about and which ones are not. For example, in the lecture a case was briefly mentioned of birth control and sexual health in India. Because sexuality and sex outside of marriage are taboo topics, a sexual health discussion like those that are given here in many high schools or simply by doctors to patients of a certain age would not be appropriate and the information may be ignored. In that case it would be much more beneficial to find a way to discuss safe sex within the context of marriage so as not to offend anyone or presume that one is condoning sex in an inappropriate context.
Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997. Print.