Global Health and Medical Anthropology

Global Health is important in context with medical anthropology as it offers different perspectives and insights of health and well-being to a specific culture and country. Particularly, developing nations that do not have the same political, economic, and social resources that developed nations have are the main focus in global health. As Dr. Paul Farmer has done in co-founding Partners In Health; he gives free treatment to patients that come to his clinic in Cange, Haiti. In return, that he may provide equal and sustainable health care for the Haitians by the Haitians.

The context of understanding people in different cultural environments has always been of interest to me, particularly, in the use of language and the way things are described, communicated and sometimes translated. So when there are health disparities among different countries and cultures it’s interesting to see the different origins and interpretations of illness and health. Ideally, I would one day like to join an organization that can better improve the lives of others so they can better help themselves and live a comfortable day-to-day life.

Having an anthropological background and stance for a biomedical practitioner within global health would be very beneficial. While the healthcare provider can have a better understanding of the illness in biological terms, the anthropologist is the mediator. They bridge the gap between the cultural and scientific knowledge of healing and treatment. For example, TribalJazzman (on youtube) told the story of IUD’s placed in Ecuadorian women as a birth control mechanism. Many doctors would thus predict that women would be able to be more in control of unwanted pregnancies, however, this resulted in adverse effects. Women in this particular Ecuadorian group were not allowed to handle food when menstruating, and the IUD’s would give longer menstruation cycles. This led to longer seclusion periods, and mothers not being able to feed their children and family. A situation like this would not be understood by just the doctor. Without an anthropologist being involved, and observing these finds and cultural ideas and values, the use of biomedicine essentially becomes useless.

1 thought on “Global Health and Medical Anthropology

  1. I agree that a large part of global health and anthropology is the comparison of different health systems to maintain global equality and human rights. I was impressed by Dr. Farmer and his focus on equal medical care despite imbalanced resources. In my ANP 320 class with Dr. Freidus, her research explored how some medical programs bring uneducated medical students to underdeveloped countries to “learn” on their patients, resulting in poor healthcare. I feel that Dr. Farmer’s work is especially important in relation to anthropology because he sees his patients as humans who have the right to the same treatment no matter where they are from.

    I think this class will make me be more critical of healthcare systems, but not necessarily in a negative way. Now when I look at commercials advertizing medicine, I feel that I am aware of the subliminal factors at hand. Or if I am at a doctor’s office, I may pay more attention to how I am being treated and how my doctor is practicing their medical care. Additionally, I feel more open to non-biomedical forms of care. Although I may not institute any of these practices into my own medical care, I would like to think that I could identify with patients who choose to do so. Culture plays a large role in medicine, and now I feel more aware of this.

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