Epidemiology

The area of medical anthropology that I find most interesting is the epidemiology section. Epidemiology is a very interesting study as it combines aspects of anthropology and statistics to trace patterns of health, different causes, and the effects of diseases in different populations. I plan to become a healthcare administrator and the knowledge that I have acquired form this course has definitely opened my eyes to the different cultural and socioeconomic factors that go into medicine. If I were to work for an epidemiologist I would be able to apply the different anthropologic approaches that we have learned in this course to provide a better understanding for the pattern or cause of a certain disease. For example if we were to look at HIV and AIDS in Malawi, an epidemiologist can collect quantitative data to predict future trends of the disease and possible outcomes. Looking at this situation from an anthropological stand point, we can assess their culture and traditions to gain a better understanding of their cultural background. We have to analyze what kinds of food they eat, what resources are available to them, and what their social standard norms are. From this, we can learn what kind of personal hygiene they follow and certain diet and nutritional information. We also need to consider their socioeconomic background. Do they come from a poverty stricken area or are they living in a well off neighborhood? The prevalence of HIV and AIDS can be significantly higher in regions of poverty. This is because the population does not have the adequate resources to inform them about ways to help prevent such diseases. They will continue doing what they normally do without knowing the possible consequences which will lead to higher numbers of HIV and AIDS within that population that may spread to other populations.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Alisyn Korpela says:

    Many points were made about how medical anthropology can contribute to the field of epidemiology. Epidemiology studies patterns of diseases, along with their various causes. An anthropological view can be beneficial to these studies by taking into account the multiple approaches within medical anthropology. In addition, applied anthropology looks at why existing initiatives for solving health problems are failing to do so, which could help an epidemiological study better understand the demographics of an area or a particular population sample.
    Applied anthropology considers the cultural, political economic, ecological and biological factors that facilitate various global health conditions and their solutions. By looking to all of these factors, an epidemiologist can develop a stronger case study and more successfully reach the outcome or solutions that were being addressed. Applied anthropology also involves multiple forms of data collection. This characteristic is very useful for a field that studies qualitative and quantitative data sets.
    Like stated above, applied anthropology considers the cultural aspects, including the cultural background, of a particular study sample when determining an outcome. For the field of epidemiology, this is very helpful because it looks beyond just the numbers from the data sets and the biological components of the individuals and considers alternative factors that have a large impact on the existing or future health of a population.

  2. Morgan Barnett says:

    Knowledge of applied medical anthropology can contribute to the field of epidemiology through the careful evaluation of why certain trends occur, as you alluded to. This can be extremely beneficial in working to dissolve the notion that genetics and ethnicity are somehow connected. By looking at the environmental cultural implications of certain traditions, epidemiologists can understand the “why” in order to educate the public more fully. I like that you mentioned this point, because an epidemiologist that seeks to seek more information on trends (and not simply to identify them), really shows a dedication to public health and wellness. Additionally, knowledge of applied medical anthropology can contribute to a careful study design that eliminates some confounders. By knowing about the culture of a certain group of people, an epidemiologist can determine whether that population is more or less likely to develop symptoms of a particular disease. An epidemiologist with an understanding of medical anthropology can understand why some diseases seem to be bounded by culture, and he or she can assess the reasons why. Having this knowledge ultimately provides a better foundation to educate the public on prevention—which is one of many different goals in the field of epidemiology.

  3. saarine3 says:

    Epidemiology that is done properly in the field can have a great impact on the way that the current problem is understood. An epidemiologist can look at qualitative and quantitative data trends to predict the next best move in preventing whatever he /she is looking to cure. Additionally an anthropologist can make a great addition to a medical team because they are trained to learn and understand cultures in a non invasive way that most other fields simply don’t offer .I also think that when they step up to learn a culture they are willing to allow them to continue doing all of their costumes so the sake of keeping themselves and their teams trusted. They can do this by looking at everything from their rituals to their foods to social interactions. Having an understanding of a culture allows the Epidemiologist to better understand why there is a problem and the best most effective and most importantly safest way possible. Looking at trends and understanding these patterns allows an anthropologist to see solutions that others would never find. for example there could be a spreading of Ebola and no one knew why, well an anthropologist might know that there is a certain ritual that requires the family of the dead to interact with the body in its natural state.

  4. Hannah Porter says:

    Applied medical anthropology can assist an epidemiologist in many ways. Specifically it can help determine the cause of a certain disease or illness because disease is caused by more than just bad genetics. By using medical anthropology a specialist can evaluate the cultural, biological, political factors that contribute to this illness. For example in week 2 I watched the video called “Collateral Damage”, during this video the tuberculosis epidemic in the Marshall Islands was evaluated and it turned out that political factors were mainly to blame. This was because a US naval base was located on one of the islands, which caused many Marshall Island natives to have to relocate because they were not allowed to live on the island that hosted the naval base and they were cleared off other islands so the US navy could conduct weapons testing. This relocated caused the remaining to become extremely crowded (in some cases there was as many as 20 people in one home) allowing the tuberculosis to be passed on from person to person extremely easy. Also having so many people in one area depleted natural resources and caused an overwhelming amount of personal waste to accumulate. Once the causes are known it is easier to treat the illness and prevent it from spreading.

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