The intersection of applied medical anthropology I chose to investigate further is epidemiology. I am currently taking the online EPI 390 course with David Barondess and it has definitely opened my eyes up. The definition of Epidemiology is the incidence, distribution, and control of diseases. It studies how diseases come about and prevention and control techniques. For example, Epidemiology studies the relationship between smoking and lung cancer. It attempts to establish causality, meaning that smoking is directly related to lung cancer and is causing it, not just an association between the two. Although I am still unsure of my future in science, I chose this because Epidemiology definitely interests me. There are many things that can cause cancer and various diseases and Epidemiologists have the ability to detect these problems and establish causality.
An Anthropologists viewpoint can prove to be very useful in Epidemiology. For example, in the article “Why Anthropologists Join An Ebola Outbreak Team” Epidemiologists immediately come to the scene. Anthropologists are needed to understand the local customs and fears, which can go a long way in getting the communities to cooperate with the health officials in trying to determine the cause of this outbreak. Without this, an Epidemiologists’ work is useless, because they are unable to determine the lifestyles of the area that they are in. When Anthropologists were not brought in situations like this, medical staff had a difficult time bringing their sick to the medical staff. The local people tend to be scared of the international health care workers and Anthropologists help ease those fears and help the locals to try and seek treatment. Anthropologists help doctors understand how the local population perceives the disease, therefore, helping the doctors better understand how to treat the disease and prevent it in the future. They play a difficult role in getting familiar with the local people and outbreaks like these require the use of an Anthropologist.
Poon, Linda. “Why Anthropologists Join An Ebola Outbreak Team.” NPR. Accessed August 9, 2014.