Public Health and Medical Anthropology

*I decided to pick public health in medical anthropology because of how easy it is to travel around the world. As we move quicker and easier around it is easier for diseases, bacteria, and viruses to also move around with us. As these diseases spread to areas in which they had not previously inhabited, they can have extreme reactions and can even cause epidemics. Medical anthropologists can help greatly in discovering the best ways in which to fight these epidemics. They can assess the different cultures views and beliefs and incorporate that into the most effective treatment. In fact, there are currently 45-55 medical anthropologists working for the CDC. (Fiske; 2007) I think this type of work would be fun, interesting, and exciting and I hope to one day work for the CDC as a medical anthropologist.

*Taking an anthropological view in any area of healthcare can be extremely helpful. One culture will/can see things extremely differently than another. This can cause persons of one culture to not visit the doctor for medical conditions that may be life threatening whereas a person in another culture with the same condition would not hesitate to see a doctor as soon as they possibly can. It can also affect their probability of taking medications. One culture may see the medication as poison and refuse to take it where as another culture may have individuals that just can’t afford to purchase the medication. Knowing these different reasonings and ideals in the cultures will help medical professionals to better treat individuals.

It can also help in determining if the issue in treatment is due to cultural differences or something else. This is seen in an example from Kleinman and Benson’s essay ‘Anthropology in the Clinic: The Problem of Cultural Competency and How to Fix It’. (2006) In their Case Scenario found in box 1 they discuss the affect of a Mexican man’s culture on his son’s HIV treatments. The man had a rather complete understanding in regards to HIV and the treatments for it but had not been bringing his son in for regular care. The doctors working his case believed this was due to the man’s “radically different cultural understanding”. However, the anthropologist helping on this case came to realize through conversations with the man that he did not have the time nor the funds available in which to take his son to the clinics in order to receive his healthcare as needed. In other words, it was not his cultural differences but his socioeconomic situation that altered his treatment routine.

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