Ecological Approach

I believe that the ecological approach will be most useful to me in studying health because I am very much interested in how humans adapt to their environment and how this affects them physically, mentally and emotionally. I recently traveled to the Dominican Republic and was told about all of the different traditions and beliefs that the people in Santo Domingo have regarding health. The physicians there explained to us that it is important for them as doctors to understand and respect the natives cultural beliefs in order to gain their trust and treat them effectively.

The distinction between disease and illness is that a disease is an actual state whether mental, emotional, physical etc. While an illness can be the actual feelings that can accompany a disease, such as pain, weakness, nausea etc. Although I knew that both terms we’re very much related, it was not immediately clear how they were different. To me, any disease is an illness, and a person with a particular illness can also have a “disease.”

In his article, Miner is referring to American culture. I started to suspect this was about American when he wrote about an North American group living between Canada and Mexico, and how their culture focused on the appearance and health of the human body, it being a “dominant concern” for the people. He wrote that the people in this culture believe their bodies are ugly and the people try to change their appearance in any way that they can. His article was a very accurate interpretation of American culture, in my opinion.

One ritual described was the use of hog hairs and magical powders in the mouth. Miner describes this ritual as being very unusual and an obsessive ritual that the Nacirema culture performs. This comparison portrays the obsessive and compulsive characteristics that people in American culture possess when it comes to physical appearance.

Another ritual described by Miner which further illustrates American society’s obsession with appearance and achieving the “ideal” body and look is his description of the ritual fasts that the Nacirema culture perform in order to make fat people thin or ceremonial feasts to make thin people fat. It is clear through Miner’s article that modern American culture is completely dominated by appearance and the drastic measures that one has to take in order to achieve the “perfect appearance.”

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Jay-Garfein Devin says:

    Although I did not pick the ecological approach I find it very interesting. It emphasizes how everyone is connected and can effect each other. I chose applied because that is how you solve the health problems.
    The ritual that Miner described about hog hairs and magical powders showed how the American culture values clean looking teeth and a healthy mouth. Today there is even more pressure to have the perfect mouth. Going to the dentist and orthodontist are common activities. People aren’t just concerned with the basics of straight teeth anymore, they want them to be whitened as well. The more affluent members of society can pay large amounts of money to get them professionally whitened, but if that isn’t in your budget there are always at home remedies. In stores across the country there are whitening strips or pastes available at a cheaper price. Some people if they are really unhappy with their teeth can veneers, which are pre-made fake teeth caps they can be professionally applied in a patients mouth to cover the originally existing bad teeth. That person then has the perfect mouth.
    The reasoning for the higher value placed on a clean, healthy mouth is rooted in America’s wanting to look healthy and young. The added pressures that are present in society come from the media. There are advertisements and commercials with people who have the whitest, brightest smiles. They have fake digitally enhanced mouths that make the rest of society jealous and want to change.

  2. Ashley Webb says:

    I find the ecological approach very interesting because it addresses how humans are able to adapt to the environment that they are in and how the adaptation has an affect on them physically and emotionally. It is very true that our American culture is very obsessed with achieving the “perfect” appearance with coincides with the ritual of the of changing a skinny person to fat and vice versa. The culture we live in today wants to achieve the “ideal” body type that is portrayed by all media. I think this ritual is very similar to what many people in our society today are obsessive with, plastic surgery. People in our society are able to see a doctor and pay thousands of dollars to change their appearance at the drop of a dime. It is not only that people are able to do this but they will do this to achieve that “perfect” appearance which is defined by the celebrities and media today. Specifically, instead of going to a gym or dieting the correct way, they are able to receive surgery that will get rid of fat (liposuction) or a tummy tuck that will make them skinnier. This a more current representation on the ritual of the Nacerima people changing their body types. It is a much more expensive way to do so but it has the same basic idea behind that ritual.

  3. Ava Peera says:

    Although I personally chose the biological approach, I completely agree with what you are saying about the ecological approach. I also have traveled to a different country where their beliefs and traditions were different than what I was used to with respect to health, and I had to learn how to adapt and make them feel comfortable.
    The first ritual you discussed involved the use of hog hairs and magical powders in the mouth. This ritual in society today reflects the importance of clean teeth. Not only are clean teeth important, but straight and white teeth are very important as well. In our society today, the desire for perfect teeth comes at a great cost. We pay hundreds of dollars for braces and teeth whitening procedures.
    The second ritual talks about the “ideal” body and how we achieve this ideal body. Today, everywhere you look people are discussing health and fitness. The images we see on magazines make us feel like our own appearance isn’t good enough and that we need to look like all the celebrities. For this reason, people not only develop eating disorders but will be willing to pay to receieve plastic surgery to achieve the “ideal” appearance.
    Compared to the Nacerima people, we have taken these rituals to the next level. Our society is willing to go above and beyond in order to achieve the best appearance.

  4. Shardae Herriford says:

    I like the fact that you noticed Narirema is America backwards. It means you took extra time in detail when reading the article. I agree that the biological approach is something that we can apply using prior knowledge from being human biology majors. I found that many of our post explain what we feel like the “holy men” are and the bundle of “hog hairs” meant to us. I also believe that the article was referring to the “hog hairs” as being a toothbrush and magical powders being toothpaste. The article states the “holy men” had paraphernalia. Which for example, could be the tools that are used at the Dentist office. Refer back to when the last time you went to get your teeth cleaned. They had needles, water suction, floss, etc.
    The second ritual that you discussed was that of “latipso” and that the men had temples in each community where they healed people using ceremonies. The ritual states that Western medicine is often one of the places where we don’t treat people at our homes. Rather we take them to these ” temples” instead. Miner described that many of the hospitals will not take patients that could not pay or that were to ill to be seen which is something that still occurs today many years later.

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