The ethnomedical approach.

I feel that the ethnomedical approach will be the most useful to me in studying health as it encompasses my short and long term goals in medicine. Having lived in Pakistan for four years, I became determined to one day return to the country and provide medical care in rural areas that lacked access to medical services. Being able to understand the local culture and beliefs of the people through the ethnomedical approach will allow me to better serve the rural natives.

The distinction between disease and illness is not clear cut as their meanings are based on cultural knowledge and interpretation. Disease however, is usually deemed to mean a biologically negative attribute affecting the human body.

Illness on the other hand, can mean something physical, emotional or psychological.  Many traditional cultures for example, consider depression as an illness which may be due to spiritual evils taking over the body. Though there may be no medical explanation or validation for situations deemed to be illnesses, they can not be discounted based on our own worldviews.

The culture that Miner is talking about in his article ‘The Nacirema’ is about American society in the 1950’s.  The complex sounding rituals were actually referring to average tasks such as brushing ones teeth, going to the dentist or hairdresser and the hospital. I must admit that it was not clear to me until I did some research on it and discovered the true meaning.


One ritual is the worship of the chest in the wall, which is of course the medicine cabinet and is found commonly in western homes. The value of hygiene and oral health is strongly embedded in western society. Another ritual is the latipiso, the hospital. Miner very astutely points out the financial implications of visiting hospitals and the capitalist nature of entering such shrines to become or stay healthy.

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  1. Meghan Kinter says:

    I feel as though medicine cabinet ritual still represents the health values and ideologies of today’s culture in the way that we are constantly running to medicine cabinet for a solution. However, I do think that we have more access to information about the medications that we are taking. Fifty years ago there was not nearly as much technology. Now anyone can pick up there smart phone and research information on any drug; there are even applications for cell phones where you simply punch in the pill code and it gives you everything you need to know.

    As for the latipiso ritual, I think it is different now than 50 years ago. Hospital safety was a big issue in the 1960’s, there were many cases of malpractice, unsanitary conditions, and fire hazards. Even though all three of those issues are still around today they are not nearly as common due to strict policies and regulations enforced by the US government. Contracting an infection is still a risk when entering a hospital today; However, it is not nearly as feared or as common as it was 50 years ago.

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