Public Health and Medical Anthropology

This course has opened my eyes to just how important and functional the field of medical anthropology is. I previously was most intrigued by the field of archaeology but have slowly switched my focus over to this subject. There are currently an abundance of medical jobs in the United States which definitely has an influence on its attractiveness. Also the advancement in technology is soaring right now, making western medicine even more dependable and efficient. On the other hand, our country has admitted that the healthcare system we currently have is not so good at all. Even countries rated below us in terms of wealth, technology, etc., have longer average life spans. The reason for this may be the existence of universal healthcare systems, in which no citizen has to worry about not having access to sufficient health services.

After watching a video on the subject of healthcare systems earlier in the semester, I have drawn up a little dream scenario in my head. I wish I could come up with a solution to our country’s problem. It isn’t fair that a portion of our population is denied healthcare due to poverty, lack of insurance, and other hardships. And it isn’t just poor families suffering. I have friends who don’t have insurance because their parents’ plans have dropped them and they are unable to work a job that provides benefits or can’t afford to pay for another type of insurance and don’t qualify for governmental assistance.

In order to come up with a new medical situation for this country, I think that well-educated and passionate anthropologists are a vital part of the research team. They bring a culture-analyzing view. As professionals, they are able to take on an objective perspective, pointing out the important qualities of our culture that would affect a proposed system. Coming up with a new healthcare system isn’t just about developing one that seems good but shaping it so that it fits into our lives easily and naturally, ensuring its success. We may need economists, politicians, doctors, and other professionals to create a system but the anthropologists would be able to predict its success rate before it is even put into action.

3 thoughts on “Public Health and Medical Anthropology

  1. I greatly agree with your idea regarding the involvement of anthropologist in creating a new health care system for America. However, I think the involvement has to be greater than what you are describing. In order for a new health care system to work in America the Medical anthropologist would have to be at the forefront of the creation process. They are trained to see the different cultures and why specific things will work and won’t work for each culture. Having this information can greatly increase the effectiveness of a new health care system in America. They should be included in the beginning ideas of the new system.

    Also, medical anthropologists can be of great help in places such as the CDC. They can help find treatments for diseases that are moved around the world by the increasingly easy travel options. They can also help doctors and other healthcare professionals to treat persons of other cultures in America so the treatments will be most effective in all cases.

    Before taking this class I wanted to become a nurse. I saw things in the way a health care provider would, in the sense of medications, procedures, etc. in which to help patients. However, now I can see things from the point of why something will or won’t work for individuals. I look at thinks more in a way of how we can make things better for each person. Because of this, I believe my interactions with healthcare providers will be more of questioning why they do things and how to increase the effectiveness of their treatments.

  2. I am interested in public health for pretty much the same reasons you are. I think it is such a huge problem that our nation, as advanced as it is, still lacks health care for its citizens. It isn’t just people in poverty who are suffering from no health care; it literally affects so many people in our country. I think part of the public health sector is health promotion. I talked a lot about that in my blog. I think promoting health is also a way to prevent disease and illnesses. I think you made a very good point on having an anthropologist as part of a research team being important. I never thought about it, but the “culture analyzing view” would help to put a lot of things into perspective.
    On a personal level, I think this class will help me understand how our society, as well as other cultures in the world works. Discussing various issues that are problems around the world helps me to put into perspective the seriousness of these problems. I believe this class will also help me to understand why people think the way they do; especially how people view their personal beliefs. I think it is extremely important for people to get a basic understanding of other cultures, since our world is so diversified.

  3. I completely agree, and understand were you are coming from. However, I’ve always wanted to work in the medical field, and am studying anthropology so as to have a better understanding of other cultures and beliefs to help with working with diverse people; I also really want to travel (love other cultures) & to help less fortunate. But watching that video earlier during this class made me feel very much the same way. I for one am not able to go without health insurance because I have a health condition (my medications would be around $500 a month without coverage). So I either have to pay for it or work a job, which provides it (I spent all last year commuting between MSU & Grand Rapids to work just for insurance reasons). Therefore, to be able to help find an answer to all the chaos that is the current health system would be great. Obviously, prevention & education are the core of public health, and also incredibly important to health care in general. This can be achieved greatly by an anthropological view. I didn’t think of it before, but agree completely with your thought of an anthropologist leading the research team. It would make perfect sense, with their ‘culture-analyzing view’ provided to assess possible changes, and probable receptions.
    Taking this class reinforced a lot of how I felt or thought about healthcare already. As I said above, I am studying anthropology (dual major with nutritional sciences) to gain a better understanding of cultural differences (I also really enjoy it) to help in addition to biological & medical training. However, even if this class didn’t necessarily change my views of healthcare in general, it did open my eyes to some other options for when I complete my bachelors. I was planning on becoming a physician’s assistant, but now am seriously considering public health or even medical anthropology.

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