Erectile Dysfunction

My definition of health was “a state of well-being in which a person is active, eats right, sleeps enough, and is emotionally sound and stable as well.”  My definition of illness was “a state in which an individual feels that they are not healthy and do not feel well.”  The deciding factor between health and illness for me was whether it was dependent on how the individual interprets it or not.  These ideas came from both society and school.  In my health psychology class, we learned that how people view health is culture dependent.  This also means that our society sets forth what is acceptable and unacceptable in our culture.  For example, in some cultures mental illnesses are not recognized as such and thought to have a different origin than the brain.

The first condition I chose to be an illness is anxiety.  Whether or not a person is anxious or feels anxious is dependent on that individual.  Everybody feels and interprets things differently, therefore some people may just brush the idea off and deal with it, whereas others may be affected by it tremendously and find that they cannot function normally without getting treatment.  How one views anxiety can also be cultural dependent.  Some cultures may view anxiety as a problem, and other cultures may not.

The second condition I chose to be an illness is erectile dysfunction.  For me, this was the toughest condition to categorize, but in the end, I based my decision on culture.  In the United States today, ED is portrayed in the media as a common problem with older men and can be fixed with medication.  In other cultures, however, they may view ED as all in the man’s head.  Since the problem depends on the person’s culture and is not known as a problem world-wide, I categorized it as an illness.  If all cultures saw this as a problem, I would categorize it as a disease.

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  1. Elliott Orr says:

    Hey Jacqueline,

    Hope you enjoyed your fourth of July.

    The article I read concerning erectile dysfunction shed some very interesting light on the topic of culture and medicine in western Uganda. While the article opens with the statement that “reproductive health care is the second most prevalent health care problem in Africa”, the very next sentence is quick to put an asterisk on this statistic. The authors point out that this care leans toward the health of the females much more so than the men. The health policy focuses on “maternal and child mortality [and] family planning” while viewing male issues such as erectile dysfunction and impotence as “petty”.

    While men’s reproductive health is “given no mention” in Uganda’s health policy priorites, there are reasons that it is not managed well other than just an absence in legislation. Firstly, studies have shown that erectile dysfunction and the like is somewhat of a taboo, and there is a “clear indication that there are many silent men . . . affected by ED”. Secondly, the pills and other treatments that we have in America and other more developed countries are simply too expensive for rural Uganda. At this point there is a three-way dilemma. Hospitals and other health administrations likely aren’t given the funding or putting forth the focus to recognize and better the male reproductive health. Part of this reason is that Uganda relies heavily on traditional healers, with 70-80 percent of the population in this category. Even if they were, it seems that many men would not admit to having an issue with something like ED. And, lastly, supposing hospitals and the male population were to jump on board, the treatments would likely be a financial burden to the patients.

    These three reasons bring up the importance of “ethnobotanical knowledge” and the resulting medicinal plants. Issues such as erectile dysfunction rely solely on these treatments, and there are many. The authors collected information from field studies and observed that the natives had 33 such plants for this purpose.

    I found this article thought-provoking as it seems as though ED isn’t recognized (or at least not aggressively tackled) as a disease or illness formally; however, it is apparent that the affected individuals consider it a problem as there has been significant work over the ages to find and utilize plants to correct it.

    Kamatenesi-Mugisha, Maud, and Hannington Oryem-Origa. “Traditional herbal remedies used in the management of sexual impotence and erectile dysfunction in western Uganda.” African Health Sciences. (2005): 40-49. (accessed July 3, 2013).

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