About nicholas burnell

I am a senior health studies major with a psychology cognate. I love to be active and play sports, coach lacrosse, am a certified scuba diver, and love to cook new foods with my girlfriend.

Famine/Malnutrition in Somalia

I wanted to talk about the famine of two thousand eleven in Somalia and the malnutrition in their country at all times. In Somalia tens of thousands of people dies from the famine caused by a serious drought. It was their worst drought in over sixty years. The largest group of people who died was children under five years old. The CBN article that was posted for our class said that during this drought parts of Somalia had the highest malnutrition levels in the world. The article went on to stats shocking facts about the devastation of this famine. The drought has affected eleven million Somalians and many people are fleeing to the surrounding countries of Kenya and Ethiopia (Gartenstein-Ross).

The people are trouble surviving this because they have reserves for food, but they were quickly used up and years of poor rain do not allow them to stock large reserves. Governments can try to help, but when your country has tough climate issues only so much can be done without receiving foreign food aid. Somalia had been receiving foreign aid but the Muslim group al-Shabaad (linked to the terrorism group Al-Qaeda) has been preventing the people of Somalia from receiving aid. They recently stopped during this horrible famine (Gartenstein-Ross). This terror group involvement is another problem that the government and political leaders need to address because these groups take advantage of poor and hungry people. They will join these groups in order to receive food and water. The United States assisted during Somalia’s civil war and the power of warlords is a problem throughout the region.

When people constantly struggle to have clean water and access to adequate food, overall health is severely affected. Africa in general is constantly in trouble with their ability for food and clean water. The climate is so extreme in the region and there is a constant battle for the people to survive. I read an article that referred to and said, “Professor David Himmelgreen has worked in the Department of Anthropology at the University of South Florida for more than a decade. He’s done extensive research in Africa dealing with food, nutrition, chronic disease, and security” (Fields). He and other anthropologist try and find solutions to Somalia’s problems and other African Nations. Vice-President Joe Biden’s wife has led the United States aid effort to help with the drought and famine. There are other programs that constantly help this region and the main one is UNICEF. They say, “640,000 children are acutely malnourished in southern Somalia alone. Their programs support 16 stabilization centers, 201 outpatient therapeutic programs, and 325 supplementary feeding programs” (Fields).

Referring back to the problem with terrorist and militant groups disrupting aid, “When a United Nations food shipment arrived on Friday in Mogadishu, a gunfight broke out and seven people were killed.  Himmelgreen says, “I think it will get better, but it won’t be before a lot more children die or get very sick”(Fields). Not only do these militants take aid away from the Somalians, but also they disrupt refugees from fleeing to surrounding countries. The article says that Somalia has seven million people and over three million people needed food, water, and health care due to malnutrition.

Anthropologists like Himmelgreen knew the situation in Somalia was getting worse. He says, “They have these early warning famine systems in place. The U.S. government has one so there are sets of indicators that they look at and they can tell months in advance if there’s an impending famine. But because of all the politics there was relative inaction”(Fields). It is unfortunate that politics can get in the way of what needs to happen. I think when a serious problem like this occurs people should act and let politics take place later on. The worst part is that children suffer the most. They have the least amount of representation.

Hopefully in the future there can be improvements in famine prevention, but as bad as it sounds Africa seems to never truly benefit from aid. Everything that seems to be done there is just a small band-aid on a very large wound. There are many political and government issues that need to be worked out. The countries have governments, but warlords control many countries. The saddest part is that the people suffer and without the basic human necessities of clean water, quality food, and shelter the health of the country will not improve. The amount of people dying in Somalia also takes a toll on those who survive. The mental and physical health of these people is constantly in shambles. I think anthropologist, health care providers, and political leaders are all needed to fix this lingering problem.


Fields, Tammie. “29,000 Children Dead from Famine in Somalia.” Wtsp.com. N.p., 6 Aug. 2011. Web. 10 Aug. 2012. <http://www.wtsp.com/news/national/article/204731/81/29000-children-dead-from-famine-in-Somalia>.


Gartenstein-Ross, Daveed. “Thousands Dying from Malnutrition in Somalia.” Thousands Dying from Malnutrition in Somalia. Christian Broadcast News, 20 July 2011. Web. 10 Aug. 2012. <http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2011/July/Thousands-Dying-from-Malnutrition-in-Somalia/>.

Public Health/Med Anthro

I picked the intersection of Public health and Medical Anthropology because they work off each other in order to solve world problems. Outside the United States, health care and culture are practiced drastically different. It is important to use anthropology to learn about the people and the culture, and then use Public health knowledge to make significant improvements. Although one method may work for Americans, that method may not be possible in another country or against their beliefs. When I switched my major from human biology to health and society in social science, my interest and knowledge of anthropology, culture, and public health greatly increased. I had been studying everything on a biological level and did not realize the complexity of health and well-being. I want to pursue a career in nursing, but lately I have had a strong interest in getting my master of public health. I think that public health policy really can alter how health care is carried out. I feel understanding these issues would help my nursing career.

In the article Unique Opportunities: Medical Anthropologist that we were to read this week they said, “ Medical Anthropology encompasses every aspect of medicine, and it encourages an understanding of self, along with empathy for the strengths, weaknesses, rights, and needs of others, as well as the ability to relate to others with greater human understanding.” I feel this quote perfectly describes what we have learned in this class so far, and it demonstrates the importance Medical Anthropology brings to Public Health.

I took an anthropology course last semester called sociocultural diversity and we learned the importance of culture and the identification of race. We did an activity on PBS where we had to look at a picture and determine the race of the person. I personally did horrible with the activity. I got most of the questions wrong. I think having an anthropologist help and educate doctors and nurses is immensely valuable. Having the ability to recognize the race and culture of the patient will start the process of the explanatory model. We have learned about this throughout the course, but this week specifically in the article Anthropology in the Clinic. Following the steps of the explanatory model will contribute to better health care for the patient. The six steps are Ethnic Identity, What is at stake, illness narrative, psychosocial stresses, influence on clinical relationships, and the problem of cultural competency approach (Kleinman, Benson). If the health care provider can use the anthropologist these steps can be more effective. Knowing what is at stake for the patient and knowing their illness narrative will help in the diagnosis and then psychosocial stresses can be accounted for. Once the health care provider feels they know the best course of treatment an anthropologist can let them know if the care can be carried out and accepted by the person and their culture.

I think our health care providers are very focused on treating symptoms and not the cause of the disease. We do have doctors with D.O who focus more on the health of the person versus the symptoms of the disease, but I feel anthropologists would allow for better public health and individual health.






I believe the culture of biomedicine to be a focus on medicine and health care from a biological perspective. So far in anthropology we have weighed the culture, politics, and economy of different people and its effect of health and medicine. Learning more about biology and the anatomy of health is very important. The think I like most about anatomy is that is understood universally. Culture does not affect the structure of the body or the physiology of body functions. The way we perceive or believe these functions to happen may differ but the actions and features of the body do not differ.

I struggle with identifying with dichotomies because a lot of the time I do not see things so simply divided and “clear-cut”. In terms of biology though we use dichotomies to classify organisms. There are eukaryotic and prokaryotic organisms. There are vertebrates and invertebrates. Although I understand the simplicity of this I believe that a clear distinction is not always possible. My differing views come from my parents’ views. My mom is very straightforward and something is right or wrong, black or white, or gay and straight, as other students have mentioned. Her views are a direct reflection of her parents are their tradition upbringing her. My Dad is very different and every situation she approaches there are multiple solutions and answers to the question. He sees how the lines can be blurred and can intertwine.

We talked about a very simple dichotomy of life and death in class and I wanted to focus on that.  I found this one very interesting because it can be approached from the idea that someone has a heartbeat or none and is pronounced dead. A person can also be mentally or spiritually alive. Although they may be approaching physical death they are very much alive in spirit and mental capacity. The opposite to that is if someone is alive and healthy, but would be considered dead in spirit or mentally in a coma. My grandma for example is approaching eighty-three and to me she is more “alive” than some of my friends. She is so upbeat and full of joy and seems nowhere near death although she is aging.

I think out society is assuming aging means death and lack of life. The elderly seem to be pushed to the side and not recognized for the life they’ve lived and continue to live.

Sleeping Disorders or Problems

I chose to look up sleeping problems and the use of prescription sleeping pills. I think it is an extremely medicalized issue in our society. Culturally we all wish we had more hours in each day and live busy and high stress lives. These are common causes for interrupted sleeping or inability to fall asleep. There is big money in pharmaceuticals to help people improve the amount of sleep they receive each night. It has become a “norm” to pop a sleeping pill to go to sleep. Some of the reasons one might use these drugs is during high stress times and travel, but if used for chronic sleep loss or insomnia it is suggested that you consult your doctor. (Mayo Clinic) Ultimately the doctor will try to identify the reasons for your difficulty sleeping.

In the article I read it stated that between thirty and fifty percent of people are using sleep aids or pills at some point. Many of these drugs especially the benzodiazepines are highly addicted. I unfortunately know someone who started taking these to relieve anxiety and sleep and would then take Adderall to wake up and be productive. The cycle would repeat and would take a sleeping pill to counter act the effects of the Adderall. Now this may not be the story for everyone it is possible with the addictive qualities of these drugs. Another example of the problems these pills can create is Heath Ledger and his eventual death following the filming of Batman. The obsession with 5-hour energy is another topic that I could go on about for days but we’ll stick to sleep aids.


The link that follows is commercial for Ambien CR.




Advertising Strategies: The commercial is pretty simple and they use a relatable scenario. Everyone has felt drowsy and unproductive at work following a night of little sleep. They also use a very common looking woman. This allows the viewer to relate and start to see themselves taking the drug.

Cultural values and Social Roles: This commercial portrays the use of these drugs as social acceptable and a common practice. This scenario seems very normal. This shows a normal worker in need of sleep.


At the end of the commercial all the side effects and warnings are listed. The list of problems that is read off accounts for about seventy five percent of the commercial. There are severe side effects including

Minor side effects: Dizziness; drowsiness (including daytime drowsiness); “drugged” feeling; dry mouth; headache; muscle aches; nausea; nose or throat irritation; sluggishness; stomach upset; weakness


Major Side effects: Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the hands, legs, mouth, face, lips, eyes, throat, or tongue; throat closing; unusual hoarseness); abnormal thinking; behavior changes; chest pain; confusion; decreased coordination; difficulty swallowing or breathing; fainting; fast or irregular heartbeat; hallucinations; memory problems (eg, memory loss); mental or mood changes (eg, aggression, agitation, anxiety); new or worsening depression; severe dizziness; shortness of breath; suicidal thoughts or actions; vision changes.


They do say to contact a doctor if you experience severe symptoms or side effects. Well thank god for that warning. The most shocking side effects is possible sleep walking, eating, or driving.


Just like our Pill Poppers video said if the benefits do not outweigh the side effects maybe we should reconsider taking these pills.







I watched the true-life episode I have post traumatic stress disorder. The episode follows the lives of three different veterans all from the Iraq war. Each veteran is in a different stage of recovery and implementation back into society. One soldier has returned home and tried six different types of medication and none have helped. This soldier is drinking heavily to try and beat this disorder and rarely sleeps. Fortunately this person does have a night security job and is trying to start an organization for soldiers like him. The next soldier has been receiving therapy and medication after attempting to commit suicide in Iraq. He seems to be doing the best emotionally out of the three but it having trouble finding work and leading a “normal” life. He may have to move out of state to find a job and leave his support system of doctors and therapists at his veteran affairs hospital. He struggles after seeing so many of his fellow soldiers die. Lastly the third veteran who has been home for almost five years is struggling because a DUI arrest is not settled and he is unable to enroll in therapy. He arrest was a direct link to his psychological disorder and repeatedly tells officers he was in Iraq and killed many people. He moves house-to-house sleeping on friends couches and considers himself homeless. His lack of medicine and therapy seems to contribute to his problems and he will “snap” when put in a stressful situation.

Their story of PTSD is at first a chaos narrative and hopefully it an become a quest illness narrative. They face strong psychological battles including suicidal thoughts and terrible nightmares. Their rehabilitation is a constant battle and can improve with time and therapy. They benefit from being the teller and having someone be the listener like a therapist. Also being around other veterans helps them because they can share thoughts with people with similar struggles. Being able to express their feelings make them more comfortable and not so isolated.

Each veteran has different experiences with medical professionals. The three stories illustrate how hard it can be to be enrolled in treatment, but how beneficial it is once enrolled. The stories also show that medicine alone is not the answer.

Unfortunately I believe our culture is very unaware of the challenges soldiers face when returning home. The episode says that we are aware of the war they fight overseas, but not the intense war they face with PTSD. I wish our culture did more for veterans to reward the substantial sacrifice they make when defending our freedom.

For the families, I believe they can understand their role in supporting the recovery. The veteran benefits from strong family support and the family benefits by helping heal their child. I think the goal of the one veteran to start an organization for holistic healing of PTSD is supported by the community and local health care professionals.

I think that this illness is terrible and sad that some veterans have difficulty returning home. Hopefully the disorder can be treated and veterans will be healed and not just drugged up on pills. I think the only preventative measure is to not be in combat, but that isn’t realistic for members of our military.

Clown “Doctors” in New York City

The article I read was about Dr. Winona Do-More from New York City. She is not a true medical doctor but in charge of the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit. This group is made up of circus-trained clowns who help to “treat” and cheer up children in various New York hospitals. They dress up in a white doctors lab coat, bright red clown noses, and different medical tubing that many of the kids have to deal with. The article says, “Satisfied that all is ready, she leaves the changing room for another day of funny-bone removals, queakectomies, and bed-pandemonium” the clowns start to entertain the children in the pediatric units (Blerkom). Some of the people that they entertain besides the patients are families waiting to hear the results of their children’s emergency room visit. They are very useful in distracting patients who are able to undergo a painful procedure or situation. These clowns also benefit the hospital workers by increase mood and morale.

The clowns role in medicine is being compared to the shamans we have learned about in non-traditional medicine. The article states, “In many ways, CCU clowns resemble shamans and traditional healers of non-Western societies. The inclusion of clowns in pediatric hospitals reflects growing interest in and respect for alternative, or more correctly complementary styles of healing” (Blerkom). These clowns are concerned with the patients’ well being, mood, and an increased enjoyable experience of treatment. This focus is shifting away from western medicines belief in treating the physical symptoms of a patient’s illness. The best quote comparing these clowns to shamans is when they say, “Both clowns and shamans mediate between order and chaos, sacred and profane, real and supernatural, culture and anti-culture, or nature”(Charles 1945:32-33; Willeford1 969:100-150).

Physicians that do more than just treat symptoms are following more of an integrational model. In order to treat the well being of their patients, doctors need to consider psychological and social health. These clowns are a great example of doctors reaching beyond these comfort zone and applying techniques used by other cultures of improve the health of patients. The direct exposure patients receive from the clowns in New York City is very beneficial because they can help children in difficult times. I thought this article was great and reminded me of the movie Patch Adams with Robin Williams.


Clown Doctors: Shaman Healers of Western MedicineAuthor(s): Linda Miller Van BlerkomReviewed work(s):Source: Medical Anthropology Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Dec., 1995), pp. 462-475Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Anthropological AssociationStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/648831 .

Susto- Latin America

Susto is a cultural illness found in Latin America and in the United States among Latino communities. Most people categorize Susto as a fright illness resulting from a traumatic experience or situation. The more serious the disturbance the greater chance in complete soul loss of the person. Some of the causes of this sickness are an encounter with an animal especially aggressive ones or contact with an evil spirit. Another cause is being involved in a bad situation maybe making a bad mistake or causing a car accident. Latin America children and infants are more likely to experience Susto due to scary dreams and nightmares. In older people learning about the death of a close friend or family member can cause this illness. It is believed that these bad spirits travel in the wind and air. Breathing of cold air or not properly cooling down after sweating can be a cause of general illness.

The use of “magical” plants of local herbs is important to the people of the highlands in Ecuador because they have a large amount of these plants at their disposal. The highlands of Latin America are filled with indigenous and mestizo people and they find the use of plants and prayers are a great source of healing. They are a very poor people and even treatment from a curandero can be very expensive for them.

In the article I read it discussed the use of traditional practitioners in Ecuador named curanderos and limpiadores the “cleaners” to treat these folk and cultural illnesses. The use of herbs and plants are the main source of treatment in the Latin American countries. I found through more research that a bouquet of basil, sage, and rosemary are swept over the body while prayers are said. I also read that marijuana tea with citrus blossoms is used to remove the spirits causing the fright illness. The use of what we in america consider aromatherapy are also used, eucalyptus being the main plant.

The use of magical plants by curanderos in the Ecuador highlands
Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2009, 5:3 doi:10.1186/1746-4269-5-3
Anthony P Cavender (cavender@etsu.edu)
Manuel Alban (manuel2004@andinanet.net)



I find the ethnomedical approach to be the best way to study health especially when considering cultures that have existed for thousands and thousands of years. I like this approach because it takes into account all different types of traditional medicine used. In less developed countries than the United States, medicine men, shaman, and traditional healers are where most people go to receive care. In another class I’ve taken about public health we learned that in Africa bone setters are standard of care for broken bones and injuries. A large amount of the indigenous people do not want to go to hospitals and prefer the traditional methods. These methods are very popular in the Far East as well with use of different herbs, plants, and acupuncture.

I find it hard to distinguish the difference between illness and disease sometimes because the two are often interchanged or said that a diseased person will lead to having an illness. I believe the opposite that an ill person is at the beginning stages of disease. I had not read this article before and I did not realize it was about America until i saw the sentence talking about chopping the cherry tree. One of the rituals was the “holy-mouth men” i found this one as an interesting view on dentists and americans importance of a healthy mouth and nice smile. People with a nice smile make a wonderful first physical impression. I liked it also because my dad is a dentist. It also referred to our daily teeth brushing as a “private mouth rite”. The latipso ceremony is referring to our hospitals and there say it is a temple “where people go to die” and that those willing to undergo the purification ritual only receive it if they can afford it. The section about women’s appearance and their breast size was interesting, but easily recognizable in our culture. The article says, “a few women afflicted with almost inhuman hypermammary development are so idolized that they make a handsome living by simply going from village to village and permitting the natives to stare at them for a fee.”

This article shows that without knowledge of a people you can make assumptions and biases without realizing how similar you are. The article made our health system and culture seem so crazy with how it was worded, but we experience these “norms” everyday


My definition of health is maintaining a balance of physical, mental, and social characteristics. A person has their physical health, which would not only be the absence of disease or illness but the quality of your body and organs. Mental health can be the ability for higher cognitive function and stability of emotions. Lastly I believe our society must be healthy and be functioning as a cohesive unit of impressive individuals.

My definition for illness would be any condition that causes your body to not maintain homeostasis. When people claim to be ill there is not always a clear-cut answer for why they are feeling poorly or just not right. So I categorize anything that affects your bodies normal functioning and homeostatic state.

I view disease as a permanent, chronic, or serious change in the functioning ability of your body. Viruses, genetic mutations, or any foreign pathogen can cause or lead to disease. I also think of disease as something your bodies’ immune system has a tough time defeating and that’s why the changes can be permanent.

I think of cancer as a disease and not an illness because it is caused by damage to cells that causes mutations. The cells can be benign or malignant and can rapidly multiply depending on the genetic code. The one thing about cancer is that the disease can affects multiple body systems and can cause side effects that would be viewed as an illness like headaches or fatigue.

I would categorize HIV as an illness because HIV can stay dormant in a persons system in a lysogenic state and once it begins its lytic cycle AIDS will develop and now it has progressed into a disease with permanent altering effects. It is a very devastating disease because your bodies’ defense system and immune system starts attacking themselves. This leaves the body vulnerable to more illnesses and possibly diseases. This one was the hardest to classify for me.

I would classify erectile dysfunction as an illness because on of the main cause of erectile dysfunction is mental and psychological issues. This illness may not be permanent and can be treated with therapy. The psychological problems may they be anxiety or low self-esteem are not a disease. The inability to perform sexually is just a movement away from normal homeostatic function.

Craft Home Brewer

Hi my name is Nicholas Burnell. Everyone calls me Niko though. I am a senior IDS Health Studies major with my cognate in Psychology. I am hoping to pursue an accelerated nursing program after i graduate in december. I am from Brighton, MI. This will be my second anthropology class. I took sociocultural diversity last semester and liked learning about different cultures. I too like to travel and my family leaves the country every Christmas and has been doing that for about 15 years straight. Usually we stay in the Dominican Republic and go scuba diving. I would love to go to Europe especially Italy and Spain. I like to stay active and play sports. I just coached middle school lacrosse for east lansing this last semester. My new hobby is to make beer at home. After trying plenty of craft beers and going to beer festivals my girlfriend bought me a brewing kit. I have moved up to using a 5 gallon brewing kit and just made a German Hefeweizen with my dad this father’s day. I can’t wait to start another recipe.

Craft Beer Sampler