Since a lot of what defines health is based on cultural context I think the ethnomedical approach will be useful to me. Each culture has its own idea of what normal health is. Many years ago I read The Island of the Colorblind by Oliver Sacks. In the society described on the Micronesian Island of Pingelap, it is very common for people to be born with achromatopsia. As a result the people on this island don’t treat colorblindness as an illness. It is simply an attribute that some people have and some do not. The society has evolved to accommodate the inability of some of its members to see color normally. Understanding why people choose certain medical treatments or feel that they have an illness depends on their cultural background. The ethnomedical approach is crucial to understanding other country’s health care systems.
The distinction between disease and illness was not immediately apparent to me. I seemed like disease was used to describe the physical aspects of an abnormality, whereas illness encompasses problems that may not have a physical manifestation. If someone perceives that they have an illness than they do. Illness includes the human perceptions of a divergence from a healthy state.
I knew the Miner article was about American culture when it got to the chopping down of the cherry tree myth and Washington at the Potomac. Even though it was written 50 years ago, we still equate good hygiene with moral rectitude. The teeth brushing ritual is still very important because it affects how we interact with others. Having white straight teeth is often considered a sign of wealth and health. This is reflected in our media too. It is common for classic villains to have yellow, crooked or missing teeth. The other ritual that interestingly portrayed was going to a “listener”. Talking to a psychiatrist seems like a strange thing to satirize but perhaps it would seem that ridiculous to an outsider.