Public Health

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.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. AnnMarie Maniaci says:

    Hey Christopher, I really enjoyed reading your post on public health. That’s so interesting that you worked on a Native American reservation and got to see first hand their troubles and sufferings. I agree with you that our nation needs a lot of work when it comes to health care and giving the sick the help that they need, even if they cannot afford it. The story you told of the little girl is horrifying, and its crazy to realize what people living in poverty have to worry about, things that wouldn’t even cross our minds, such as dying because of mouse poop. I saw things of a similar nature when I volunteered in Ghana, and it was very eye opening. It’s sad to think that such things happen in our own country. Something that may be expanded on is certain ideas and methods of improvement, such as creating a source of healthy and affordable foods for people to eat, or even how educating these people can do a lot to help save their lives. I think that a lot of public health involves education, because believe it or not there are people who just don’t know the right ways to take care of themselves, their hygiene, the right foods to eat, and so much more.

  2. Rolando Barajas says:

    Great post, I would completely agree with your statement about how there is such a heavy involvement in politics when pursuing a health oriented policy. To the point where the original goal of healthcare to be provided is completely skewed to political agenda of some party. Many things must change and agencies must become proactive to find ways of analyzing groups of people and their culture for sake of our humanity to help those who are undeserved. Well when it comes to religion is a very delicate subject because many view their beliefs very dear but religion may not always be an indicator of different health beliefs. For instance there is a big anti-vaccine movement going on currently. Many believe that vaccines do more harm than good but then people who decide not to vaccinated their children run the risk of exposing their child to a viscous disease or even worse exposing another (younger) child who has yet to be vaccinated to a disease that may be life threatening. Its important to study the subcultures that are present in our society because when it comes to providing healthcare we need to be best informed so that the public may feel aware of all health services that are provided for them.

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