Clinical Medical Anthropology

I think that clinical medical anthropology is essential for helping patients and professional staff understand each other.  The fact that clinical anthropologist act as a cultural mediator not as a whole but from an individual perspective makes treatment much more effective.  I feel that understanding a person’s personal experience with an illness is very important in providing a treatment regimen that will be the most effective.  Of course there are downfalls, such as the tendency to stereotype, but I feel that overall the methods used are necessary to understand cultural beliefs and their impact on medicine.

As a clinician, having a cultural understanding would allow for better communication to the patient.  I think some of the best examples of this were made in the Tribal Jazzman Scholar video.  The examples that he used are great ways to show that knowing more about the culture in an area can make an impact on the approach used to fix an outstanding problem.  Another great example is talked about in the lecture.  The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa has had a huge cultural impact. If epidemiologists and doctors could find a better way to communicate to women that breastfeeding is hurting their children and that by not breastfeeding they are being a good parent things may be drastically different.  They also need to find a way for them to provide nutrition for their children that is safer for them.

I remember watching a documentary that talked about how they were able to communicate to different tribes in Africa the importance of family planning.  In these tribes the girls are married very young and the problem is that they become pregnant at too young of an age and it causes major health issues.  The clinicians and anthropologists were able to talk to the men and women about birth control.  The men like the idea because it kept their wives healthy and also allowed them to be able to control the sizes of families so they were better able to support them.  This is just an example of how with the right communication, change can be possible.

2 thoughts on “Clinical Medical Anthropology

  1. I agree with the fact that people in Africa need to be educated about how they are spreading HIV to their offspring by breastfeeding. I also agree with medical anthropology being a good way to communicate knowledge to patients and professionals. It is the job of a medical anthropologists to look at all aspects of healthcare. This means, looking at the person’s environmental factors, individual choice, and culture. As you have stated, it is very common in African culture for young people to marry at an early age. Therefore, they have babies entirely too young and this can be very damaging to health. As a medical anthropologists, there should be solutions or suggestions provided for Africans as far as more nutritious ways to feed their babies as well as forms of contraception.
    This class will affect my own interaction with healthcare because one day I plan to become a Pediatric Endocrinologist. Therefore, I will be dealing with children that have hormonal problems such as thyroid disease, diabetes, etc. Thus, it would be very beneficial for me to weight out all of the aspects that I have learned in this course; individual choice, medical history of their parents, culture, religion, etc. Learning about Medical Anthropology has really made me realize all of these factors and take them into consideration when studying illness and/or disease.

  2. I completely agree with your reflection on the use of medical anthropology in a clinical setting. As you mentioned, the tendency to stereotype can be a challenge for clinicians. Each clinician would want to be culturally competent, but at the same time, he or she cannot assume that a patient has particular beliefs because they look a certain way. I think you could also mention that although it would be impossible to be an expert on every culture you see in a clinical setting, it is ultimately important for the clinician to be aware of culture and its effects on health and illness. I think just the attempt and desire to understand a patient’s perspective and beliefs could be a huge asset. I thought the Tribal Jazzman youtube clip was very interesting as well. He really brings to light the good intentions of clinicians, but also their lack of cultural competency and inability to help the patient in the best way possible.

    I think this class will affect my own interaction with health care and health providers in the future, because I will have an understanding that culture is a huge factor in health and illness. It has also helped me understand that no one is a blank slate with no culturally influenced beliefs, neither the patient nor the doctor.

Leave a Reply