About Shavon Alexander

My name is Shavon Alexander. I am a Human Development and Family Studies major. I will be a junior in the fall. I am looking forward to learning new things about illness and culture in this class. I plan on going to medical school so I am really excited about this course!

Biological Approach

I chose the biological approach because it seemed to focus on every aspect that mankind goes through. It focuses on the environment, genetics, and individual choice of a person. For example, if a person has Diabetes, using the biological approach, you would review the type of environment they live in. Maybe they are from a poverty stricken area and may not have access to health information or even health insurance for that matter. Then you would focus on their genetics, meaning, does Diabetes run in the family or not. Lastly, their individual choice. What did they choose to eat everyday? Was it that they actually had access to healthy foods but just did not choose to eat it? Therefore, choosing the biological approach was the most logical to me because, once again, it focuses on every aspect.

The distinction between disease and illness is that disease focuses on symptoms and tests of certain foreign pathogens (Lecture 1 video) and illness focuses on the individual person through the cultural and social contexts. The distinction is very obvious when I think about the two. When I think of disease, I think of it as being long-term and you will live with it forever. When I think of illness, I think of it as being temporary or not a big deal. Illness can be as simple as a common cold to me. As you can see, there is a major distinction between the two.

In the article, Miner is talking about American Culture. I was very confused as to what culture it was until I researched it and realized that the word Nacirema is the word “America” spelled backwards. One ritual that is performed in the Nacirema culture is when they go see a “holy-mouth-man” once or twice a year. This is describing when Americans go to the dentist once or twice a year for tooth decaying, annual cleanings, and various mouth surgeries. I think this is saying that other cultures view this ritual of going to the dentist as unnecessary because they describe it as just being pain for the patient instead of it being healthy like we (Americans) think.

Another ritual that is discussed in the article is the “listener.” This is describing psychologists in American culture and how Americans think that a psychologists can solve the many problems that we (Americans) have. The ritual of hospitals is also discussed in the article and it states how a “latipso” is placed in the size of any community. It says that the ceremonies can only be performed there for very sick people. This is describing doctors and/or professionals performing surgeries in American culture. I get the impression that people think that there does not have to be a designated person to perform surgeries or treat illnesses since the text emphasized how the “medicine men” are the only people that can perform the surgery. This article was very intriguing and quite clever.



Infertility was the hardest for me to tell if it was an illness or not. My personal definition of health is the overall well-being of a person mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. My definition of an illness is a condition that alters a person’s mind, body, emotions, or spirits either permanently and/or long-term.

The deciding factors were if the condition was long-term, if it altered life in any way that I have previously listed, and lastly, if the condition can be treated or not. I honestly think that these factors are from a combination of society and personal experience. For example, when society can treat a condition or totally make it go away, it is not considered a big deal. When you can still function in daily activities without much of a bother, people do not consider the condition an illness, or at least not a MAJOR illness.

I also know this from having a condition myself. I am a Type II Diabetic and I consider this an illness because it does alter my life and it can be treated. However, looking at it from a “long-term” point of view, if I don’t take care of it properly, it can lead to other complications and conditions. Therefore, I consider it an illness.

The three conditions that I picked from the list are Infertility, Erectile Dysfunction, and Old Age. Infertility was very difficult in deciding if it were an illness or not simply because some people take fertility drugs and are able to conceive. Meaning, the problem can be corrected but this is not the case for everyone. Some people are just stuck with infertility and there is nothing you can do about it. But I do consider infertility as an illness because it alters your life, it can definitely be long-term or permanent. Erectile Dysfunction is kind of the same way. Society has several drugs you can take to help erectile dysfunction. It alters your life but it can be corrected. I do not consider it an illness even though it is long-term, it can be corrected and it will not effect your life to the point of death.

Old Age was really self explanatory. I do not consider it an illness because it is a natural process. Every living being gets old. It does alter your life, but you cannot prevent it from happening in any way. Natural processes cannot be considered an illness.