I picked public health because I plan on going to school for nursing. I think taking this class and learning about medical anthropology has given me a view of medicine and disease I would have otherwise been oblivious to. Since nurses seem to play a pretty big role in public health, I think understanding this area from an anthropological perspective can help nurses and doctors answer various questions that may not have been answered from a biomedical perspective.
An article by Dave Campbell sheds light on the contributions anthropology can make to the public health arena. Campbell says, “Public health’s primary concern is to improve the health of a population”. Anthropologists are able to study certain populations and their culture in order to provide a more integrated perspective in a clinical setting. Anthropologists can also use a more holistic approach in order to see the “whole picture”. This perspective can help to identify all factors (from the root up) that may contribute to a certain problem. For example, if a certain demographic in Detroit is more commonly infected with a certain type of disease, a medical anthropologist can look into several factors contributing to that problem. This can give health providers the knowledge of where that disease is spreading from, why that certain demographic is more susceptible, what kind of health care is being provided, whether that demographic is educated in how to help treat and prevent that particular disease, various cultural issues associated with that disease, etc. Most doctors and nurses are grounded in the philosophies of Western medicine, so they generally look to the sciences and biomedicine for answers. However, when questions and problems are not able to be resolved when looking at them from a biomedical perspective, medical anthropologists can provide an interpretation unbiased by the philosophies of Western medicine.
Campbell, Dave. 2011. “Anthropology’s Contribution to Public Health Policy Development.” McGill Journal of Medicine 13(1):76. Accessed August 9, 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3277334/