Ethnomedical Approach

Although I would consider the Biological Approach to be most relatable and within my comfort zone as a human bio major, I think the ethnomedical approach will be most useful to me in studying health as it considers cultural factors rather than simply combating health problems affecting an individual.  In my opinion, the ethnomedical approach is much broader and seeks to understand and explain the underlying factors that influence the health of a culture, community, or population.  This approach takes a necessary step back from identification of disease and brings forth critical information that may reveal cultural causative agents such as diet, or even culturally influenced perception of pain that could prevent seeking out health care.


Based on the lecture definition of disease and illness, the two begin to differentiate as human interpretation and perception is introduced.  Disease can be identified by a separate individual (not experiencing the ‘disease’ in question) due to the the outward clinical manifestation.  Illness, however, is more individually based and is heavily influenced by that individual’s social and cultural contexts of what it means to be “ill”.  This distinction is not immediately obvious to me as I use both “disease” and “illness” almost synonymously.  If anything, I would tend to consider “disease” to be more biologically-based and definitively treatable/manageable (in general) than “illness”.


Miner is referring to the American culture in the Nacerima article.  The location of the “Nacerima” was given away early on in the article and I quickly thought of the U.S.  The market economy of the “Nacerima” and especially the behaviors and rituals sounded exactly like what we perform today, just with a crude and barbaric tone to hide the true culture within the article.  A couple of words were reversed as well, including “American” (Nacerima) and “hospital” (latipso[h]).


The shrine filled with “charms and magical potions” described in the article picks at our over reliance on pharmaceuticals and our tendency to hang on to our prescribed medicines so long that we forget their intended purpose.

The mouth ritual section alludes to the cultural importance we place on the maintenance of teeth, and more broadly, our appearance as a whole.  This is entirely dependent on the cultural and social context we live in.  We seek to attract others through appearance.

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  1. Steven Sochacki says:

    Even though I choose the biological approach, I felt the ethnomedical approach would be my second choice if I had to choose another. I like the idea of looking at the “cultural causative agents” that this approach has to offer because it allows for a bigger picture to be seen in how a variety of diseases or illnesses are caused.

    Looking at the first ritual you analyzed from the article, I agree that people (including those I know) hang onto pharmaceuticals and other kinds of medication for longer than needed. Although the article was written a while ago, this ideology still remains unchanged to this day. However, the second ritual involved with dentistry and cleaning of the teeth is different today compared to back then. The ideology may be the same, but the health values have changed. For example, newer toothpastes have been developed for better cleaning of the teeth when brushing. Another example is that anesthesia was not used as much or at all for certain dentistry procedures during the period in which the article was written, but it is used today in many procedures. This allows the patient to feel no pain or less pain in contrast to the yearly teeth cleaning ritual described in the article.

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