W6 Reflection: Epidemiology

I chose to reflect on the area of epidemiology because I am very interested in studying disease prevention and plan on obtaining a Masters in Public Health (MPH) in epidemiology after graduation. Epidemiologists track disease patterns within certain populations at a specific time period and study how it affects the individuals within that population so they can help eradicate and prevent further problems. They have to ask themselves why the problem is occurring, who is at risk, and how they should intervene.

Since I would like to work with infectious diseases someday, whether I go into research or healthcare, looking at things from an epidemiological perspective would be very helpful in studying and tracking disease patterns.

Medical anthropology serves to help us understand how individuals interpret illness in a variety of cultures. Integrating particular areas of anthropology and epidemiology is important because you have to take all aspects into account. We have to be well aware of the fact that human behavior amongst different populations and cultures are important for understanding and influencing disease patterns. For example, the spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone was fueled by cultural burial traditions. The families of the deceased members practiced rituals in which they would get too close to the infectious body, thus causing the distribution. To help combat this, anthropologists were sent to the affected countries to teach the residents safe and culturally respectful ways to bury their loved ones without spreading further infection.

Another good example is the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa. Anthropologists sat down with doctors to discuss African cultural norms for sexuality and its role in the spread of HIV (Ramin, 2007). They found that the spread was related to the residents having multiple sexual partners, as in African culture, sex outside of marriage is not frowned upon. While the anthropologists have tried to educate individuals about safe sex and contraceptives, it has proven difficult due to cultural factors.

Ramin, Brodie. “Anthropology speaks to medicine: the case HIV/AIDS in Africa.” McGill Journal of Medicine (2007): 127-132. Accessed June 29, 2015. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2323482/

Maxmen, Amy. “How the Fight Against Ebola Tested A Culture’s Traditions.” National Geographic, January 30, 2015. Accessed June 29, 2015. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/01/150130-ebola-virus-outbreak-epidemic-sierra-leone-funerals/

One thought on “W6 Reflection: Epidemiology

  1. Hi Michelle!
    I loved reading your post, it was very informative and interesting. I also wrote my post on epidemiology, but I focused on talking about cardiovascular disease among African-American communities in the United States. I think it’s very good the doctors sat down to talk about the african social norms of HIV in Africa. As a continent it is very normal to have polygamous relationships and the doctors are doing a good job of addressing that. If the doctors will not do it, then who will? Cultural barriers are a huge deal when is comes to exploring why there is a prevalence of a disease. Clearly, the cultural norm isn’t just having one partner like it is in America. In many western homes the social norm is to get married and then have kids after committing to one person for the rest of your life. In sub-sahara Africa that is not the case. There must be an active role for the government to help out with this awful and deadly epidemic. People must know and be educated more about HIV and its deadly effects. The government should make laws than ban polygamous relationships like many countries do. Even though it is a cultural norm, it is costing the peoples’ lives.

Leave a Reply