Public Health is a field that captured my interest while working in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Pine Ridge is the largest city on one of the bigger indian reservations in the nation. It is also one of the poorest. The health infrastructure is governed by the Indian Health Service, a federal entity. It was there I saw what happens when bad policy is forced upon a population of people who are simply too poor to cope with it. It results in some of the worst health statistics in the entire western hemisphere. I have seen people die due to chronic and acute conditions that anywhere else in the US would have been considered routine, treatable, etc. There was a little girl up the road, probably no older than 10, who died from the hantavirus; a virus she was exposed to via large amounts of field mouse poop in vents and attic of her mobile home. An issue most of us in this class have never had to deal with. I also read Mountains Beyond Mountains, somewhat of a biography of a featured personality this week, Dr. Paul farmer, along with a few of his other books. Public health became an interest thereafter.
I want to go to law school to study health law. I see America as at a bit of a crossroads when it comes to the healthcare of citizens. Even with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, there are still some huge philosophical questions looming. But the politics of these questions are so far removed from the actual policies and their social implications, that when it comes to the future of medicine and health care in this country, we are torn across party lines. One reason I am so interested in medical anthropology is that these philosophical questions of health in the early 21st century are sometimes met with peculiar religious answers. Whether it is refusing a potentially life-saving treatment in the hospital, or restricting the access of individuals to healthcare based on sex and employment status (like in the hobby lobby decision), religion seems to find itself in between healthcare professionals and their goal of extending the life and improving the well being of patients. This is an issue I hope to one day study as a lawyer in the field of public health.
Scholar, Tribal Jazzman “Medical Anthropology”. Episode #26. Viewed Aug 8, 2014.