W1 Reflection: Ethnomedical

I think the ethnomedical approach would be very important to use and understand when studying health. Studying the different healing practices of cultures and comparing their efficacy on the symptoms, this approach would aim to improve the treatment of various diseases and illnesses in a way the culture would accept. Knowing the medical system of a society, and how and when they treat diseases is vital to understanding how a culture maintains health and treats illness.

The distinction I believe they were trying to make between disease and illness is that disease is a visible condition, whether it is an infection or that it causes some sort of physical dysfunction. They were describing illness more as a personal perception of someone’s health. Disease seems to have a narrower definition, while illness is whatever a person thinks and feels that it means regarding their health, in the context of their culture and society.

I didn’t catch on to what culture Miner was describing until I noticed the question in the prompt that mentioned I was supposed to figure it out, and then read through the article again. While typing this out now I just realized what Nacimera spells backwards. One ritual described in the article is the medicine cabinet and the process of obtaining prescription medications. The doctor is said to write an ingredient list for a curative potion, but in a language that only the doctor and the pharmacist will understand, and that they only give the potion for fees given to the both of them. The Nacimera aren’t usually told what are in the “potions,” yet they take them anyway without thinking. Also, it shows that to get cured, you need money, so what happens when you are poor is that you won’t be treated. Another ritual in the article regarding the latipso is that while in main culture secrecy of natural bodily function is so great, but in the hospital there is little privacy.

3 thoughts on “W1 Reflection: Ethnomedical

  1. Hi Becca,
    I had a hard time choosing between the ecological and ethnomedical approaches, because I feel like there is a reasonable overlap between the approaches. In the end I sided with the ecological approach.
    As the article about the Nacerima culture was written nearly 60 years ago, there have been some updates in the American society.
    Regarding the medicine, not all doctors use the old fashioned prescription pad anymore. Thanks to advances in technology, a lot of doctors now keep electronic files – meant for ease of sending information to other locations should it be necessary. As a result of this, I have a doctor that prints out my prescriptions and another that asks where I want to prescription sent to and sends the information directly to the pharmacy.
    Another update is about the “potions” themselves. These days there are a lot of options for having prescription drugs tailored to each person. I feel like this method allows people to have a better understanding of what ingredients are going into the drugs they put into their body. However, as a whole, I don’t think that many people really know or care to know about the ingredients in the medicine they are taking as long as it makes them feel better.
    Sixty years later, our society is still as money driven as ever. Goods and services are still expected to be repaid for in monetary funds. Add in inflation, and now we require an even greater financial repayment. I imagine this will never change, but rather just continue to increase.

  2. Hello Becca,
    I debated on choosing the Ethnomedical approach or not but eventually went with the biological approach. These two approaches could easily be argued for as one because they are so similar. Since Miner’s piece of literature was written many years ago, the rituals he described are slightly out of date. They can however be related to current health values and ideologies. You mentioned the medicine cabinet and how people would go to the doctor to obtain these “potions”. Miner described this practice with the patient knowing little of the illness or treatment. This has changed in the passing fifty years because we now possess tools such as Web M.D. We can now research the topics that most only know through obtaining a med school education. The 21st century version of this issue would be that we are not 100% certain that the treatment given will not have any side effects down the road. In addition, you mentioned the financial aspect of medicine and how Miner spoke of only the sick with the financial means would be treated. Though that may have been true fifty years ago, today we have put in place many institutions and laws that put an end to the favoritism of the financially privileged. It is much easier for someone with low income to get the treatment that they need. Health care is slowly changing so that anyone can go and get the attention that they require.

  3. I really enjoyed reading your article and I agree that ethnomedical approach is vital in understanding and appreciating how healthcare practices are shaped according to cultural norms of a place. I also like your distinction between disease and illness; that one was more evident than the other physically and one was more dependent on the feeling on the person.

    On the culture that Horace miner was described was not evident when I read through and I’m glad you pointed out the Nacirema culture was actually the American culture! After reading the post, I was able to analyze your comparisons of the ritual box with the medicine cabinet and the constant struggle of making the body beautiful because it is created ugly. I think that in American culture, and many others in the world, there is an addiction of improving the body when there really isn’t an issue. Like the saying goes, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” but in a culture that is always focused on the next best thing, it is harder to accept what one already has, even if one is healthy.

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