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.