W6 Reflection: Epidemiology

An area of applied medical anthropology that I would like to look into further is epidemiology. Epidemiology is the study of disease and health conditions within populations and is an important branch of medical anthropology because it strives to understand aspects such as transmission and screening which can be very useful in understanding how an illness in spread throughout a population. I take a personal interest in epidemiology because I think that the use of statistics to understand the rates of transmission allows for the most objective means of studying the way a disease moves within a population. I think the overall goal of epidemiology, to study and control disease, is very important to all of humankind.

I think that an anthropologist would be helpful in studying epidemiology because their insight could be very helpful in understanding the modes of transition of the disease by studying the habits of a population as well as lend a perspective on how that disease is screened for by looking at the level of understanding of the disease and its symptoms at the individual level throughout a population. An anthropologist may also serve as a very useful bridge between a populations cultures and traditions with their understanding of germ theory and the spread of disease. Additionally I think anthropologists can understand more about the individuals inflicted by local illnesses and see how they will utilize different medications and vaccines.

I think a good example is the spread of HIV through breast milk. In some countries where water is often unsanitary and therefore unsafe and food is scarce breastfeeding an infant may seem like the only option to provide a child with nutrients. By understanding this mode of transmission and why it would be more prevalent in certain areas where AIDS education is lower and safe water and accessible food is scarce, the epidemiology of HIV can be better understood. Looking at the habits of the population that is experiencing an epidemic from an anthropological perspective can greatly enhance our understanding of the spread of that disease.

“HIV and Breastfeeding.” Avert. N.p., n.d. Web. .

“What Is Epidemiology?” Thebmj. N.p., n.d. Web.

One thought on “W6 Reflection: Epidemiology

  1. I enjoyed your post, Jaclyn. I agree that there is more to mapping a diseases pattern out than just biology. Anthropologists look deeper into how social and environmental factors can come into play when considering disease incidence. It is important to study the cultural habits of the population to see what could be causing the distribution of the disease and who is at highest risk. It is also necessary to speak with the individuals to figure out how THEY perceive their illness and if they properly comprehend what is occurring so they can be informed and treated in an appropriate and respectful manner. Your example about the transmission of HIV via breast milk is a good one. It is so difficult for mothers with a low socioeconomic status and limited resources to find a decent alternative to breast milk. An anthropologist can help introduce these mothers to baby formula and better methods of feeding. Another important example is the spread of HIV through sex. The big problem in some African cultures is the lack of knowledge about safe sex and contraceptives. It is common in certain African societies to have multiple partners. Anthropologists have helped educate people about how serious HIV/AIDS is and the importance of using condoms to prevent the spread.

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