Enthnomedical Approach

The approach I feel would be most useful to myself in studying health is the ethnomedical approach. This approach would be helpful to use because it closely studies the systems that people from different cultures use to understand their illness and their protocol for treating the illness. Different cultures have different definitions of health and illness and it would be important to take that into consideration. The ethnomedical approach does this by viewing the different models used to describe health and illness, looking at the different healing systems used to treat illness and the descriptions of the healing, as well as the behaviors and protocols used to seek treatment for illness.
Disease is the “outward clinical manifestation of altered physical function or infection” while illness is “the human experience and perceptions of alterations in health, as informed by its broader social and cultural contexts”. Having had anthropology courses that have talked about disease and illness I knew there was a distinction between the two that dealt with clinical manifestation versus perception via the social and cultural context in their descriptions.
It actually took me a minute of quickly reexamining the first page of the article to realize that Miner was talking about American culture. Nacirema (America spelled backwards) is the American culture involving medicine in the 1950’s. You also know they are talking about American culture when he mentions Notgnishaw (Washington spelled backwards) and his feat of cutting down the cherry tree. The idea “a highly developed market economy” also gave you the idea that it was America Miner was writing about.
The ritual involving the shrine built into the wall represents the importance of prescribed potions and charms (pills and medicines) in the Nacirema culture. They are used religiously to combat the Naciremas fundamental belief that “the human body is ugly and that its natural tendency is to debility and disease” (Miner 1). Another ritual that goes along with their fundamental belief is the holy-mouth-man (dentist) and the magical materials he puts into the holes in peoples teeth (fillings). This ritual further represents the importance of going to a medicine man (a doctor of some sorts) to have an illness relieved by the giving of magical remedies (fillings, pills, medications, etc.).

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Jenelle Dushane says:

    In the past 50 years things have changed in the way we do things we are more aware of all the chemicals and pills involved in making us “beautiful,” many people are reducing the chemicals and pills they have on hand. There are many companies making “green/organic” products, trying to jump on the trend. I believe this shows us that we made a mistake involving all this which ultimately may have altered our bodies more negatively than intended. People have also been involved in movements to reduce the amount of prescription drugs in our cabinets (ritual shrines) due to misuse and expiration.
    It is also interesting in the movement “everyone beautiful” telling people they do not have to stress themselves out trying to look the best they can because they are human and we all look different and should support this notion.
    Something not mentioned about the Holy-mouth-man that has become a recently new invention is braces. People are really conscious about their teeth. It is often the first thing people see when meeting you. It would be interesting to hear Miners description of a dentist attaching metal to someone’s teeth and all the pain involved in alignment.
    These ideas show that we have become aware of these habits and are striving to change them.

Leave a Reply