I believe the biological approach of anthropology would be most helpful in studying and understanding health. Although there are many aspects that affect human health, including the environment, culture, and ethics, the basic understanding of the human body from a biological view provides us with necessary information. Understanding how the human body functions, or is supposed to function, could help to determine how to form the basis of health and what it means to be a healthy human.
The distinction between disease and illness is that disease is the actual physical manifestation of altered bodily functions, whereas illness is the experience and perceptions of alternations in one’s health, influenced by behavior and socio-political factors. This distinction was not obvious to me. I had never really thought about the difference between the two before, but it makes a lot of sense. When we say someone is diseased, it usually means their physical alterations have been proven by medical and scientific means. When someone is ill, we think more about their personal suffering, i.e their experience of a physical alteration.
The Nacirema article is talking about American culture, and I realized this when he said they are a North American group living between Canada and Mexico. The “mouth-rite” ritual described in the article was very interesting. As the author says, the mouth is “the condition of which is believed to have a supernatural influence on all social relationships.” This is extremely true in American culture, where we believe that having a clean mouth, with straight, white teeth will make people think better of us, and make us more attractive to the opposite sex. Another ritual I found interesting in the article is that of the medicine box, especially where the author states “we can only assume that the idea in retaining all the old magical materials is that their presence in the charm-box, before which the body rituals are conducted, will in some way protect the worshiper.” I believe this represents our society’s obsession with taking preventative measures to remain healthy and avoid deterioration of the human body. Many medications or supplements that people take are not necessary for them to live, yet they take them to enhance the state of their health or being, and to avoid getting sick.