I think that that it will be helpful to understand and use the ethnomedical approach while studying health. I believe that the ethnomedical approach focuses on the relationships between illnesses and cultures. One day, I hope to travel around the world and provide dental treatment to those in need. By understanding different cultures views and beliefs of illness and disease I will be able to more successfully work with and treat patients.
Initially, the difference between disease and illness was not obvious to me. I believed them to be almost interchangeable. I now understand that a disease is just the physical aspects of an illness. Illness is the disease, how people view the disease, how people deal with the disease and their overall experience with a disease.
In the article, Miner is talking about the North American, and more specifically the American culture. I first realized this when he stated that, “they are a North American group,” living between Canada and Mexico with a market economy. Miner also makes historical references relating to the United States. The Nacirema and Americans also have several things in common: both are worried about appearance, cleanliness, mental health, etc.
The first ritual I found particularly interesting was the mouth rite ritual performed by the holy-mouth-man. This consisted of putting powder and hog hairs on one’s mouth. The Nacirema believed that without mouth rituals they would have a variety of oral health issues, such as bleeding gums, and would be socially rejected. The Nacirema continued to visit and have faith in the holy-mouth-men even when they continued to have decaying teeth and poor oral health. This is also true of the medicine men. The article suggests that medicine men actually increased a patients chance of death by poking, prodding and stabbing. Although many died after visiting the medicine man, the Nacirema continued to visit them with hopes of being cured.
Other rituals I found interesting have to do with physical appearance. People fasted to become skinnier, and feasted to become fatter. Breast size was also important. Rituals were performed to make large breasts smaller, and small breasts bigger. Women with particularly large breasts we idolized. This shows just how important the Nacirema believed appearance to be. Americans today do similar things.