Ethnomedical Approach

I chose to write about this approach because I agree that different places utilize medicine in many different ways.  For example, you may find more modern medicine in rural areas of the United States but there are many places that rely on healers and sorcerers for their health and wellness.  This idea identifies the approach that different peoples take when considering their health and whether they need to seek treatment depending on the life style they choose to lead.  For me, this idea is truly captivating   I would like to go into osteopathic medicine and while it may not be completely holistic, DO’s do learn the art of massage therapy as well as alternatives to some medicinal treatments.  The ethonomedical approach takes a step back and looks at the whole picture : the culture, the environment, as well disease itself to understand the world of medicine.  The world has become increasingly dependent on drugs and pills and I think the the ethnomedical approach is a way to search for natural and alternative ways to stay healthy.

When I hear the words “disease” and “illness”, I almost think of them as having the same meaning.  When I step back and think about it, though, it seems that a “disease” would be more of a diagnosis from a medical professional while describing someone as being “ill” would be a statement made by the person having the disease or a family member or friend that is surrounded by the disease.  I believe that this is a difficult distinction to make and the two words are often used too interchangeably.

The Nacerima article is obviously talking about American society.  I figured it out after reading the part about the cherry tree and after reading the description of the “rich, market economy”.  In the fourth paragraph the author explains the connection the families had to shrines in their homes to keeping healthy.  Health is seen as a top priority in the community illustrated in this article. In these shrines there are “potions” which could be a metaphor for the reliance Americans feel about their pharmaceutical drugs. I think that this also goes for the example for the mouth ritual explained in the passage.  Many people believe if they don’t take their vitamins and their medication every morning it will be the end of the world.  In reality, I believe that many of those habits are just modern-day rituals that have become the norm in our society.


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  1. Amy Sweetapple says:

    Hi Danielle,

    I agree with your views on the ethnomedical approach – I too, think that it is very important to look at the big picture which includes the combination of our environment and culture in respect to treating diseases the best way possible, and to not always jump the gun to prescribe drugs.
    Your interpretations of the Nacirema rituals are spot on. Our society shows great reliance on the medications prescribed to us, even if we are unsure of what we are ingesting in order to “cure” us. Also, the shrines within households are basically only there to accumulate the potions or medicines for our sake. Prescription after prescription, Americans store the pills/topicals/etc in the medicine cabinet and end up forgetting their purpose, yet are hesitant to throw any of it away. We seem to be attached to what we think can help us “fix” or enhance our appearances/functions, since our physicians reassured us that it will work. What is now normal to our society is essentially the “mouth ritual” that Miner described in his article. Americans emphasize the importance of immaculate teeth, and if we dare to not complete our daily rituals of brushing our teeth or visiting the dentist as often as we are “supposed” to, it is deemed as unhygienic and irresponsible.

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