Global Health and Medical Anthropology

I chose to investigate further the intersection of global health and medical anthropology.  This interests me because of my love of travel.  I am currently working on a degree in physiology along with an additional major in anthropology.  I hope to combine these two fields to use medical knowledge in different cultures throughout the world.  As we saw in lecture, Paul Farmer is an excellent example of how combining expertise in these areas can be very successful.

I plan to go to physician assistant school after I graduate.  So if I do end up working in this area of healthcare it is likely that I would work for a doctor.  If we worked in a foreign culture and the doctor had no anthropological background, it may raise many problems.  Throughout this course we have seen the various effects caused from cultural intolerance, or simply cultural ignorance in the medical field.  Even here in the United States we witness some American medical professionals who do not always acknowledge the benefits of including a patient’s culture in their treatment.

I think that taking an anthropological view would be most important in the area of global health.  By definition it includes the treatment of illnesses in different societies and cultures the world over.  This week alone we have seen how an anthropological view is useful.  Some of the examples given were that of E. coli bacteria contaminating a water supply and causing a local town to have a high incidence of dysentery.  One woman took the effort to organize an entire campaign to teach the local women to boil their water before using it.  However, she did not take into account the cultural beliefs in that society which said that boiling water would kill the spirit in the water.  Needless to say the failure could have been avoided with better anthropological background.

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  1. Kiara Whitsell says:

    Hi Dan,

    I love to travel as well. I agree that learning about the various treatments of an illness that different cultures offer is very important. The criteria for seeking treatment and the type of treatment are important as well. For example, severe cases of dysentery can be due to the type of treatment an individual is receiving and when they decided to seek treatment. Moreover, I agree that the water contamination campaign was not successful because she did not account for the cultural barriers that affect the prevention of Ecoli contamination. Many individuals do not acknowledge the seriousness of cultural beliefs, when they are creating solutions to different health issues. Also, I believe that individuals will not be reluctant to embrace solutions just because it solves their problem because most individuals will die for their cultural beliefs. Therefore, it is important to take time to understand different cultures and attempt to relate to them. In addition, I believe that communities would be more open to accepting solutions to different global health problems, if anthropologist and researchers gained their trust. Lastly, clinicians should utilize the approaches of anthropology because they can assist in treating a patient and enhancing doctor-patient relationships.

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