Ecological Approach

The ecological approach takes into account all factors of the environment and available resources of people when dealing with health and medicine. Many of these factors, such as culture and the availability of health resources in one’s area, play an important role in how people seek medical help when they are sick or injured. Certain cultural constraints and lack of nearby resources may prevent people from seeking the medical attention they need. The health care system can use this information to provide better care to meet the needs of all people.

Disease is the physical/biological ailment that is affecting the body. Illness is the manifestation of symptoms that are felt and that people are cognitively aware of. Disease is the same throughout all cultures; however illness is open to cultural interpretation. It wasn’t initially obvious to me since I’ve heard disease and illness used interchangeably for so long, but after giving it some more thought I believe that these definitions are much more accurate.

The Nacirema culture Miner discusses is actually the American culture. I realized this when Miner says they are a North American group living between Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, and then talks about the Nacirema hero, Notgnihsaw (Washington), who crosses the river and chops down a cherry tree.

One of the ritual acts of the Nacirema include “lacerating the surface of the face with a sharp instrument” for men and “baking their heads in a small oven” for women. Miner describes them both as “masochistic”. I think this is a good representation of how our culture goes to these seemingly painful extremes to make ourselves handsome or pretty. Obviously shaving and getting your hair done is not actually painful but from this perspective it makes one think twice about the everyday acts we do to make ourselves presentable by our cultural standards.

Another of the Nacirema rituals is the use of charms given to them by the medicine men and herbalists to cure certain ailments. The Nacirema usually keep these charms even after their use is no longer needed just in case they may ever need them again, until they eventually forget what they’re for. This reflects the cultures reliance on prescribed medications, even though most people don’t fully understand what the medicine actually contains or how it treats the disease or illness.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Breanna Ramsay says:

    I found it very interesting how the ritual acts of “lacerating the surface of the face with a sharp instrument” for men (shaving) and “baking their heads in a small oven” for women (getting a perm) are still things that are culturally significant 50 years after this article was written. These ritual acts have only changed slightly today, if not become seemingly more painful or time consuming and show how our culture still reveres how important looking handsome or beautiful is. It would be interesting to see how Miner would describe something such as eyebrow tweezing or waxing as a ritual the Nacirema preformed (things that are both common today).

    The use of charms (prescribed medications) and keeping them long after they are no longer being used is still a popular practice today. Many medicine cabinets seem to become packed with old prescriptions and medications that might no longer be needed by the person they were prescribed to. It would be easier to look up the use of medications found in a medicine cabinets today though because of the internet. This doesn’t necessarily mean the medications would still be effective or taken correctly. This further reflects our cultures desire for a quick fix for ailments and our reliance on prescribed medications.

  2. Anya Odabasic says:

    I agree with what you said about thinking twice about how much we actually do and how much time we spend on ourselves to make us “presentable”. Miner makes the acts sound seriously unpleasant when today some people even consider getting their hair done an enjoyable thing. Also the extent to which our society has pushed these “socially presentable” limits is crazy. To wear summer attire a woman has to make sure her legs and underarms are shaved and her toes painted and pedicure’d. I can’t be the only one who battles with wanting to put my hair up in a ponytail instead of straightening or curling it on a hot summer day! Men also face similar appearance challenges with having to shave their faces. A clean-shaven face is seen as more professional and the men that do have facial hair sometimes get scrutinized for it. I actually used to work in an office where the men had to be clean-shaven. Although not physically painful, these tasks take time and energy out of our days. It may not be much, but for a busy college student hair, make-up, and a nice outfit can take away from sleep or study time. This article shows that America’s obsession with appearance began before people even knew the extent it would grow to.

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