Ethnomedical

I chose the ethnomedical approach as the most useful for studying health.  I like how it was described as examining one’s intellectual assumptions about how the world works.  I believe that this is an increasingly important factor in world health, especially as medical technology and discovery improve.  New questions are constantly arising and the right answers are becoming less obvious.  A current-day example is that of tuberculosis vaccines.  Throughout history the disease has been one of the most deadly, especially in undeveloped countries and therefore demands the greatest manufacture and distribution of vaccine.  However, some are raising the point that the disease evolves and quickly becomes resistant to the treatment if only a few strands remain.  This then makes the disease potentially more dangerous (untreatable) in the future.  So should the vaccines be distributed as soon as possible? Or should that wait until treatment efforts can be better organized and thus more successful?  On the pharmaceutical side, should companies be able to patent and over-charge for vaccines as their intellectual property, or should it be made available for the poor (and more afflicted) communities?  Ethics is the best approach to such challenging questions as it requires objective, nonbiased answers built on logic and justice.  In many scenarios this is needed supplement to the bare scientific advancement or political agenda.

Disease is the outwardly evident manifestation of altered physical function or infection while illness is the human experience or perception of such alterations based on social/cultural contexts; this difference was not immediately obvious to me because in everyday conversation many such medical terms are interchangable or not clearly defined.
Miner is talking about the American culture (an anagram).  I suspected this when he described it as between Canadian and Mexican cultures and was certain when he said the original leader chopped down a cherry tree.  The “shrine rooms” with magic boxes and holy-water-mouth-rites refers to bathrooms with medicine cabinets where people brush their teeth.  The “ritual fasts” and “ceremonial feasts” refer to diets and holiday dinners such as Thanksgiving.  The mouth hygiene practices show discipline and sanitation while the dichotomy of stuffing and fasting represents a binge-and-regret theme within American health ideology.  When analyzed together, various American health practices form a less than logical and even ironic whole.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Chase Taylor says:

    This was a very interesting perspective and great argument for using the Ethnomedical approach. I would say that in general society as medicine has advanced and people have become more educated the shrine rooms and medicine cabinets have become much more updated and people certainly have a great amount of trust for their medicine cabinets and have learned to throw away drugs that have expired or been forgotten. I would also say that as time has progressed and collective knowledge has been obtained some things have not changed as much as they should. For example it would seem that a great deal of Americans have not learned self-control. I would also say in relation to the dieting and stuffing it is interesting how this continues to be heavily practiced. It is really quite fascinating that with all our experience we would not learn how to control eating habits better. Yet I would say that as time has progressed in some facets American dieting habits have become better. We have learned that it is more about eating smaller amounts of healthier food. We have also learned that with time fasting only encourages your body to utilize types of molecules that are not fats but instead carbohydrates and proteins.

  2. Dylan Bieber says:

    This is a great take on the ethnomedical approach. As I read Miner’s article, it became very apparent that we Americans focus and incredible amount of attention on things that are very superficial. What impressed me most was how Miner analyzes visiting the dentist. The way he explains how people faithfully go get holes drilled and filled in their teeth, even though our teeth still decay is quite powerful. We as a society are putting too much effort on physical appearance. Another powerful image is how Miner describes visiting the hospital. As children, we fear because we believe they are place people go to die. As adults, we will go and wait for hours at hospitals or other treatment centers, and we will unquestioningly follow the instructions of a stranger just because they have a DO or MD after their name. Combine this with the inability of Americans to dispose of old medications, and it seems we would spend more time worrying about becoming ill than we do enjoying times of good health. As time has passed, I believe that hospitals are now not necessarily seen as a place to die. I think that as society becomes more trusting of modern medicine, people have begun to see hospitals as very beneficial to keeping people healthy.

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