The biological approach to health is the most fundamental approach out of the six choices. The biological approach to studying health deals with things such as environment, genetics, and individual choice as listed in the presentation. We are complex biological organisms in a biological world. Understanding how genetics play a role in our health and ability or susceptibility to fight disease or get disease is very important. Our environment plays an integral role in our health as well. The two main factors that influence our state of being are genetics and environmental factors. Individual choice was something I would not have originally grouped into the biological approach to health, but it does make sense because as complex biological organisms we have the ability to make choices and the choices we make in our lives have significant impact on our overall health and well-being.

My understanding of the differences between diseases and illnesses is that diseases are caused by some sort of biological thing like bacteria, virus, and genetic problems. An illness can be a disease, but it doesn’t have to be a disease. For example someone can have an illness without having a disease like in the case of anxiety. Anxiety wouldn’t be considered a disease, but it would be an illness and does affect the state of well being of an individual. I am not sure that the distinction was completely obvious at first, but after thinking about it this distinction is the best I could come up with.

In the article written by Miner about the Nacerima people at first I wasn’t sure what he was referring to, but then in the second paragraph there are more clues about who the Nacerima people were. Miner described that they lived in North America and since the word wampum was used to describe something in their cultural history I needed to conclude that the Nacerima were actually some tribe of Native Americans that I have not heard of before.

There is no doubt that the Nacerima people held beliefs that were very different from the rest of mainstream culture in the same geographic locations during the time period that Miner addressed in his own work, roughly around the 1930s. Two of the rituals described by Miner in his article about the Nacerima people that I will expand on are that of the “holy-mouth men” visits / mouth-rite and what is called “latipso”. The culture has a very large emphasis on rituals and taking care of one’s health. The people have an oral fascination that involves a daily ritual of stuffing “hog hairs into the mouth with powders and then moving in/with particular patterns/gestures”. The holy-mouth men visits are biannually and seem like a trip to the dentist’s office. The Nacerima would go to the mouth-men (who wield crude “dentist” like equipment) to get their teeth and mouth problems fixed.

The latipso is not the ritual, but it is a temple that can be found in the community. Ceremonies are performed at this temple on the very sick and are barbaric and shocking. This temple is similar in some respect to going to the doctor’s office or hospital in our culture. One similarity is that people would be mentally shocked by certain acts done at the temple which would be completely different or inappropriate anywhere else. In our own culture it might not be fully acceptable to be fully naked in front of a complete stranger, but if that person is your doctor then it might be alright. With both of the rituals / practices described by Miner it can clearly be understood that the Nacerima hold powerful spiritual/ritual beliefs that keep the practices in place even though they may be extremely painful and useless in treating certain problems.


Thanks for reading,

Justin Kenton

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