Ethnomedical Conceptual Approach

–    I think the enthomedical approach will be the most interesting and useful to my understanding of health in this course. Studying the wide range of health systems and comparing and contrasting the different ways/approaches they look at health will be very informative and interesting. The differences in how health and illness are explained linguistically, behaviors seeking health and how care is described can be vastly different between cultures. I’m looking forward to more examples of this variation. I think this will help me become a better well rounded PA, who will hopefully have an understanding of the variances in health systems around the world.

Disease is defined as an outward clinical manifestation of altered physical function or infection. The focus is on the physical aspects of the disease. Illness is the human experience and perceptions of alternations in health, as informed by its broader social and cultural contexts. The focus is now on the individual and less on the clinical aspects of the disease. I’m guilty of using disease and illness interchangeably. I never really understood the distinction until now. The illness without disease and the disease without illness pictures gave a good understanding of the distinction.

When the Nacirema culture was characterized by a highly developed market economy which has evolved in a rich natural habitat, I began to think it was the US culture.

The first ritual that interested me was the medicine men and herbalists. The ancient and secret language described in the article shows the lack of understanding and knowledge a patient has about one’s own condition. They just give a “gift” and hope the medicine men and herbalists cure them. The ritual about the oral care mouth-rite was also very interesting and confirmed for me that it was the US culture. The way the article described the hog hairs, and how we return to the holy mouth man year after year made me feel like our healthcare was ancient. It seems like the Nacirema culture is very dependent on “medicine men, herbalists and holy mouth men” without really understanding what they do. The barbaric nature of the article led be to believe the majority are not informed about their healthcare. The article had a very interesting perspective on our culture.

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  1. Naomi Fleischmann says:

    I agree with you that it is very interesting that fifty years ago medicine men and herbalists were taken at their word for whatever treatment they prescribed. What I find even more incredible is that the same circumstances can be seen in today’s society. Nutritionists, for example, are trusted completely by their patients and are hardly ever second guessed. This becomes a problem when a person is told to stay away from certain foods without any biological evidence that this new diet will have any helpful impact. An even more prominent problem in today’s society is the absolute trust people have in chiropractors. The practice of acupuncture is still a highly debatable topic, yet people are submitting themselves to this pain daily without acknowledging the lack of scientific evidence. So even though we may like to think that we have made a major progression scientifically when it comes to “medicine men” and “herbalists,” I am sorry to say that I do not believe we have progressed as much as we could have. In terms of the use of hog’s hair to clean one’s mouth, I thought this practice was eerily similar to what people do now to clean their mouths (i.e. flossing). Obviously we have come to the realization that there are far better substances than hog’s hair to use in order to preserve a healthy mouth, but the concept in general was not too far off from today’s practices.

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