Public Health

I chose to investigate the area of public health because I am interested in learning more about (widespread healthcare and/or health). I have really enjoyed this class and I now believe that I would like to work in the field of public health, maybe within the epidemiology branch. I loved learning about all the work that Dr. Farmer has done in poorer and more impoverished countries like Haiti. It is inspiring and someday I would like to work in a related field.

I believe it is important to take an anthropological view alongside a clinical view when providing healthcare. This is especially true of public health because it deals with protecting the health of entire populations. The focus of its efforts deal with large numbers of people and therefore have profound and lasting effects.

Understanding the cultural beliefs and customs of the population that is being treated is a vital component to the success of the healthcare in question. A good example of the success of this collaboration of information is explained in the article “Why Anthropologists Join An Ebola Outbreak Team” from this week. Doctors that do not understand the locals’ cultural beliefs about the Ebola virus tend to railroad the locals into fearing the care that is intended to help them.

The locals in sub-Saharan Africa blame sorcery when death comes quickly and that the affected individuals have become host to demons. The cultural belief that standing too close to a person with gemo or a bad spirit makes it easy for the spirit to catch you helps to prevent the spread of the disease. As explained in the article, if clinicians understand this belief, they may be better able to isolate infected patients without breaking the trust of local people. Thus, it is vitally important that our doctors and anthropologists strive to work together to understand all aspects and cultural contexts of a disease before diving in. Creating a fear of healthcare workers among the affected population through pure ignorance will only hurt instead of help.

CDC Foundation. “What is Public Health?.” Accessed August 4, 2014.

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Justin Blazejewski says:

    Like you, I find learning about widespread healthcare to be very interesting. As it turns out we used the same source from CDC to better understand public health. I too find that adding an anthropologists view along with a medical practitioner could greatly enhance the protection of public health within entire populations. Those with possibility for a certain illness would then experience one-on-one guidance in straying away from disease along with the knowledge based on findings of an anthropologist regarding who is most often diagnosed, reason for such finding or possibly his or her understanding of the patients cultural beliefs.
    I found the example you used to back the idea of why we need anthropological advise along with medical practitioner guidance to be very useful. Culture is something that can be very confusing and hard to understand without proper teaching given the large divergence of societies beliefs and values in today’s world. With that, I think it would be very helpful to for anthropologists to apply the biological approach to the matter as well. If an anthropologist had the knowledge of how these sub-Saharan locals evolved into having certain cultural beliefs they may be able to then explain the seriousness of isolating patients without breaking their trust. Without being able to relate to the medical practitioner, the risks for disease may be disregarded entirely by the patient which is why understanding each and every culture at hand should be first and foremost among steps the anthropologist should take.

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