Infant Mortality in China

Infant mortality in China has been a problem in past years but it has recently been reduced to 33/1000 deaths, in which the article I have cited states is a measure of the health care level.  In the past, the rate was 300/1000 deaths before age one. Some causes could be related to difficult labors or disease. There has been an increased focus on vaccination to prevent infectious diseases. 

Socially and culturally, China may be modernizing and realizing its infants do need to be taken care of to survive and thrive.  They need vaccinations and to be born in a hospital.  The lower mortality rate indicates that China has progressed both politically and economically in line with other prominent nations in the world today.

Carol Berman, a medical anthropologist from the University of Buffalo, has done research on infant mortality in Tibet.  She has compared behavior and infant mortality.

The Chinese government has done an extensive amount of work in health promotion.  They have increased their rate of vaccinations and thus made a substantial reduction in the infant mortality rate in China.  There is still work to be done in this area but it is improving rapidly.  The infant mortality rate is higher in rural areas, which is to be expected.  There is less access to hospitals in these areas. The political climate has improved in China and the residents–infants included are benefiting from a new and improved China.  Economically the country is doing better and the people of China are culturally, politically, socially functioning much better than they have in the past.  Soon infant mortality, hopefully will become a problem from the past such as diseases that are no longer a problem today such as polio, tuberculosis, measles, things we have vaccinations for.  This is good news for the people of China. 











Global Health and Medical Anthropology


The area of intersection of applied medical anthropology I have chosen to investigate further is Global Health and Medical Anthropology.  I picked this intersection because I feel there is no worthier or more important world wide concern or disparity than Global Health. Personally I feel Global Health is of worldwide concern, we are all in one world and the world’s problems are our problems.  I would like to contribute in a meaningful way to alleviate world hunger, it would alleviate so very many problems throughout the world.  One problem leads to another and another. Hunger leads to poor health which in turn leads to disease. 

If I were younger, I would like to serve in the Peace Corps and work right with the needy around the world helping them one on one.  An anthropological approach in this situation would help because if you understand a culture’s ways and values, you can relate to them in a more meaningful and helpful way.

In the article I have cited, What Can Critical Medical Anthropology Contribute to Global Health, anthropologists have shown the “realities of health disparities and human suffering”.  It points out a very important point in regards to medical anthropologists and global health–they have made the wealthier nations aware of the need to help poorer nations in this regard.  Medical anthropologists take into consideration the cultural practices of people of different ethnicities when recommending treatments and ways of treating people of different cultures from our own.

Certain diseases mentioned in this week’s lecture such as malaria and HIV are global problems that need to be addressed by health professionals all over the world.  Other global health issue’s that were mentioned in the lecture include reproductive health, malnutrition, and infection.  These are everyones concern, globally and here at home. Medical professionals need anthropological training to understand different cultures and the most effective way of treating people of different ethnicities.



Obesity – A Disease?

Obesity is biomedicalized in U.S. culture because mass media has become overly obsessed by it and now it is in the realm of a disease, disorder, something that has to be fixed. Consumers are preoccupied with it and concerned about it.  They want to take a pill, have surgery, do whatever it takes to alleviate the problem.  In the lecture, it was stated that biomedicalization is concerned with enhancement of bodies even if it means medical intervention.

Even the website address implies it is something that has to be “cured”. It gives you strategies to lose weight, 101 tips on what you can do to achieve a satisfactory weight loss. There is a presense of medical information, they talk about health disparities. They discuss the psychological reasons for obesity and mention experts (or so they say) in the field of obesity. They even discuss homeopathy, herbs, prescriptions for weight loss and bypass surgery for the extremely obese. They tell us we live in a society based on appearance, they talk to us as if they need inform us of these things and it is news to us.  They name celebrities that have been helped and even promote these celebrities diets and their books. These advertisements try to appeal to your sensibilities by acting like they are giving you the tools to make your own decision regarding the best way to go about losing weight. Another part of their ad is disturbing, they appeal to Hispanic and Latino obesity as if these particular nationalities have more of a problem with obesity. 

They also show a doctor’s stethoscope in the corner of the ad as if to say that doctor’s recommend their methods and they are endorsed by physicians.  There is also a cross next to the stethoscope perhaps symbolizing a physician recommendation.




The cultural meaning of biomedicine is an important concept because it consists of an institutional history of biomedicine, the language of biomedical facts and the rituals associated with biomedicine.

My personal views on this dichotomy are that it is hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.  I believe life begins when a baby can live outside its mother’s body when they are viable, but death is a more difficult concept to describe. Is a person still alive when they are in a vegetative state?  Hard to say, because if a machine is keeping their brain alive and they would “die” without it, it does not seem like they are alive.

This is logical because a person that cannot function independent of a machine is not alive in my opinion.  However, there are instances when a person will only need to be on a machine for a period of time and then be taken off of it.  It is quite a dilemma for many because if there is a chance of recovery then most people will consent to it.  My views come from my own experience of parents’ having been on life support.  Most people feel very strongly one way or another on this issue.  I have experienced both scenarios.  One time it helped and another it did not.  My view is that prolonging life and avoiding death makes sense if there is a reasonable chance for recovery. 

In our society I believe this is a true viewpoint from most people’s point of view except those who are against it under any circumstances and feel they want to die naturally.  As I have said my views come from my own experience with this, and I do not know if everyone feels this way but I do.

Choices about when a person has really died are very individually based.



True Life: I Have Narcolepsy

This episode of True Life is about two women ( young women ) that have been diagnosed with Narcolepsy. People that have this condition are overcome with the urge to sleep at the wrong times. The girls, Julie and Katy, also have an accompanying disorder, Cataplexy which consists of muscle failure, much like a temporary paralysis.

The type of narrative for this type of disease is the Chaos Narrative because it is a chronic, degenerative type of condition.  It does include social suffering. There is a social stigma for someone suffering with this condition.  It is difficult for them to explain this to others and for others to understand and empathize.

The persons that are sick need to acknowledge that they have a problem.  They need to seek the care of a professional and be excused from regular responsibilties.

Illness narratives are very useful, people’s illnesses do not occur in a vaccum (from the lecture).  The narrative helps the person telling it (the person who is sick) make some sense of his suffering and feel empowered.  The illness has not taken them over–they have some sense of control over their pain.  People talk about their illness and how they feel and perceive the problem to be, from their perspective. The Restitution Narrative works with a patient with a temporary illness that will have a cure at some point. The Chaos Narrative works with a chronic, degenerative condition and does include social suffering.  It helps the sufferer to talk about this and feel like they are not alone. The Quest Narrative is a journey.  The emphasis is on emotional and spiritual healing over physical restoration.  One example mentioned in the lecture was breast cancer survivors, and another that was mentioned was Alcoholics Anonymous groups.  Any social support group such as a substance abuse group or other group would serve the same function.


True Life: I Have Diabetes

The medical condition I am going to talk about is diabetes.  Kids, teenagers experiencing this illness feel isolated, different from their friends, out of the loop so-to-speak.  There are things they cannot do that their friends can because of their diet and medication restrictions. They have to acknowledge that they have this problem, see a physician, and be excused from their regular responsibilities at times. They are set apart. They do however at some point have to accept their disease, deal with it, and do what they need to do to keep it in control.  It is ultimately, their responsibility for their health.  That can be an overwhelming task for a teenager.

This influences the management and treatment of diabetes, because kids do not always want to follow the regimented routine of diet, exercise, shots and medication required by this disease. They want to be like others kids.  It is hard for most kids to accept. This makes management of the disease difficult for physicians, because non-compliance can be an issue with teens.

There is a deep connection between belief and healing.  These kids have to believe they can control their diabetes, follow their diet, and take their insulin (if that is required). The power of positive thinking and believing you will recover makes a big difference. In “Placebo: Cracking the Code” the boy with the warts on his skin was cured of a disease is uncurable most of the time.  Also, it was strange how the woman with depression was “cured” with placebos.  With me, I had breast cancer, which could have gone either way, but I had to believe in the positive and I believe it made a difference in my recovery.  I thought it was sad in the movie about the man who found out he had cancer and died and the cancer was not bad enough to have been the cause of his death. 




Amok …a Malaysian Disorder

The phrase “running amok” originated with this disease.  It originated in Malaysia and is a dissociative disorder.  It is mostly in males around the ages of 20-45 and its symptoms include brooding and frequent outbursts. They become exhausted after this and it seems to be precipitated by some sort of insult and is a sociopathic type of disorder. Men suffering from this suffer a loss of status within their own community. It often occurs in rural regions of this country. Treatment of this syndrome is similar to that of other psychiatric disorders.  Sometimes these patients are suicidal and require hospitalization.  Cases of amok are becoming less and less and better treatments become available.  This behavior can resemble mania and such disorders as bipolar disorders.  The origin however is in Malaysia as a culture bound syndrome. Some patients suffering from this have become suidical. I do not think people with this disorder in Malaysia had any type of treatment that was helpful just like people nowadays with similar diseases, treatment is difficult for these chronic disorders today just as it has been in the past.


A Doctor For Disease, A Shaman for the Soul-Some Thoughts

I am summarizing this article about Shamans at Mercy Medical Center in Merced, California.  They work along with physicians and other health care professionals as part of the team.  The Shaman believes he has the responsibility for the sick person’s soul. It is believed that social support and a person’s belief system have a lot to do with their recovery from chronic illness.  The Shamans at Mercy Medical undergo a seven week course, which gives them an explanation of Western medicine, germ theory and healing techniques. A lot of the patients there have come originally from Laos and are refugees from the Vietnam war.  They helped fight the Communists and were forced to leave there and come here to be safe.

The healers are Shamans and their social status is very high and the patients look up to them and follow their word.  They want their spirits exorcised before they want treatment. They interact with their patients in a variety of ways–they come to the hospital and treat them and also perform ceremonies at their home. These ceremonies are now being performed at the hospital with the consent of the patient’s roommate. The Hmong use things such as finger bells and gongs and go into trances during the ceremony. The Shaman is not paid with money but sometimes a barter item such as a chicken might be given. In this culture the Shaman is first and foremost and now recently the physician can work along with him.  The Hmong do not believe in surgery, anesthesia or blood transfusions and physician’s need to work around these contraints. The symptoms are treated by “releasing” the evil spirits, then the body can be treated medically within the realm of their belief system following the restrictions and limitation that are put upon the physician.  A majority of the time the patients recover with the social support they receive.

A Doctor for Disease, a Shaman for the Soul

Scandinavian’s Predisposition Toward Cancer

People of Scandinavian descent, particularly Finnish in my experience have a predisposition towar contracting one form or another of cancer. Perhaps some nationalities has a defective genetic mututation with a tendency toward this disease.  I am Finnish myself and I have had cancer and so have various people in my family.  It appears that there is predisposition for it either in my family or in people of Finnish descent.  Perhaps there are environmental factors involved, Finland has a cold climate but I do not think that is something that would be a reason for cancer cells to re-produce. In our lecture in the Reflection Ms. Karim stated that it was something to reflect on if culture and political and economic influences spread disease.  What way would it affect cancer?  Perhaps it is diet.  This nationality makes a lot of pasties and seem to prefer and “meat and potatoes” type of diet.  This may be an environmental dietary factor in the development of cancer.  Cultural ecology examines how cultural beliefs and practices influence ecologogical relation between humans and diseases (lecture l, Chapter 2).  Cultural practices and beliefs may influence things like food choices. People that have immigrated to the United States seem to have the same tendency toward this disease, so being here in the United States seems to not have made a difference.

The ecosystem could be out of balance in this nationality. It is possible that first generations have not adapted and achieved a balance between themselves and their environment. I believe it is a combination of factors from environment, lifestyle and there may be a genetic component somewhere that we are not aware of.  In the future there may be a way of altering these affected genes if they are proven to be the culprit.  Some may say that is playing God.  That is a moral argument for philosophers and scientists.


I think the biological approach is the most useful in the study of health. It is the most logical in understanding what happens with the organ systems when they are affected by disease. When the normal healthy state of the body is not in balance, changes occur in the body to compensate.  I believe this approach definitively shows what happens when there is a state of disease or recovery from surgery.  It is kind of a domino effect.  When something happens with with one organ, the others are affected in a similar manner.

I believe illness is an altered state of well being. A disease needs to be treated to affect a cure. Miner is talking about a culture so full of rituals that it was hard to see how the Nacirema ever were to get anything done in their daily lives.  Magic plays a huge part in their rituals, which are private as are their shrines. They do have a successful economy which is hard to comprehend since they spend most of their time performing these rituals.

Most of the people do the mouth-rite, have a shrine and there is a ritual that involves scraping the skin of the face with a sharp instrument–a kind of sadistic torture. The kind of ritual these people are put through could cause disease such as infections, decay of the teeth. They have a ritual in which they pull their teeth apart if there is no decay and put “magic” dust in the pulled apart areas.  It is true that this is a severe instance to what a culture will do to enforce their beliefs on each other.  Miner states that they believe their bodies are ugly and disease and decline is the body’s natural tendency.  He also says that they believe so devoutly in these rituals to help change the body’s natural state and the only way to do this is through rituals and ceremonies.