Public Health

I chose the area of Public Health because it is a field I am very interested in.  After my undergraduate studies, I plan to pursue a Masters in Public Health and a career in the public health sector.  According to the World Health Organization, public health “refers to all organized measures (whether public or private) to prevent disease, promote health, and prolong life among the population as a whole.”  As a public health professional, I could work in a wide variety of positions, from making changes in public policies to working on programs promoting health.

Working with a doctor, it would be very helpful to use an anthropological viewpoint.  In the article written by Kleinman and Benson, it was very interested when they talked about cultural assumptions.  Many times, we think we are being sensitive to cultures by thinking that a Chinese person believes this or a Muslim person believes this, but we do not think of the patient as an individual.  The case scenario about the Mexican man was very helpful was very important.  The doctor assumed that he was not taking his son in for regular treatments because he had a different cultural understanding, but when a medical anthropologist came in, it was found out that it was just due to socioeconomic issues.  On the opposite spectrum, the Chinese woman from the same article did not want to continue with treatment because of her cultural understanding.  Taking an anthropological view is important because you can understand the patient’s culture and see whether that plays a role in their health.  Kleinman and Benson’s concept of ethnography would be very helpful in a clinical setting.  A medical anthropologist could evaluate the patient as an individual instead of making broad assumptions in order to make sure the patient got the best care possible.  A medical anthropologist makes sure that the treatment is sensitive to the culture of the patient, but doesn’t just define the patient by their culture.

“Trade, foreign policy, diplomacy and health,” World Health Organization, accessed August 7,  2014,

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Kelly Cummins says:

    Mary, I chose to comment on your post this week because I too, am very interested in the Public Health sector of medicine, and I really like the approach you took when discussing how anthropology plays a role. However, I took a slightly different approach to my post this week.

    I also think it is very important for doctors to look at patients as individuals to really provide the best treatment. Anthropology is very important in this way because they are trained not to make these broad assumptions, like you mentioned above.

    However I also think it is important for anthropologists to help doctors look at and understand large cultures as a whole. Often, doctors have trouble looking at the larger cultural issue rather than specific patients and their illness. Doctors are trained to take each patient individually and evaluate their condition in order to put a name to the disease if possible. Anthropologists are great in a public health setting because they can use their knowledge about cultures to find the root of the health issues in communities. Doctors can use this information for preventative medicine. Preventative medicine takes pressure off of our health system and leads to far healthier communities.

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