W6 Reflection: Public Health

An intersection that really interests me within the anthropological field is Public Health.  Intersections play a big part of my education, as an Interdisciplinary Studies major with a background in Political Science, I am really interested in the multi-faceted approaches to Public Health.  Specifically, Public Health is interesting because of societal ambitions in trying to eradicate much of the diseases and injuries that are prevalent within communities.  As someone who is hoping to go to graduate school for Public Health, I am hoping that I can work with the government agencies in pushing for Public Health policy, whether it be for car safety measures or more sanitary approaches in different work fields.  As the article “Anthropologists and the Public Health Agenda” states, “importantly, the behavioral and social sciences generally have had a notable impact on the public health agenda and programs in the US”, pointing to outbreak of HIV and the behavioral interventions that have helped to contain the disease.

In the context of working with someone outside of the anthropology profession, be it the Government or an NGO in my case, having a basis of anthropology in the Public Health profession is very beneficial to perceive different approaches to health that are optimal for different communities.  Analyzing how to approach a community through an ethnomedical perspective can help to break the tension that may arise from people who have different medical beliefs.  For example, as seen in a previous week’s subject, working with Native Americans to improve their health is not just as simple as diagnosing them with medicine.  There are belief structures and outside influences that can create obstacles for subjecting people to the right health care.  As well, this Native American community may act differently to health care than the Downtown Detroit community or the Chinese Community in the West.  Extra considerations and research is added when using an anthropological lens.

One thought on “W6 Reflection: Public Health

  1. Hello Ronald,

    I enjoyed reading your post and it seems you have a thorough outlook on the public health sector. I liked that you brought up that having the ability to switch between anthropological approaches as sees fit for different populations could alleviate some of the tension that is produced when medical workers step into an environment different than theres without the proper communication tools. Other than possible tension, another factor that would be important to focus on, is the effort to provide comfortability. When I participated in a public health research program in a small country in southern Africa, I remember that one of the biggest barriers was comfortability of the patients. I worked with women who were HIV positive or had cervical cancer, and they did not have an issue sharing information once they were comfortable, but when people come from different countries or backgrounds, they are hesitant to speak with you. They want to make sure they you are not there to judge them or hurt them. Its different than the healthcare in America, there you have to be patient and be willing to work with them. As a public health worker, you also have to be content with the choices, actions, and behaviors of other cultures. Due to financial concerns and health reasons, the women were taught to breastfeed their babies and they did it in public, no matter who was around. In America, there has been many issues circulating the rights of women to openly breastfeed, but in some cultures, this is a form of public health intervention for mother and child. I would say many of these issues in other cultures are societal and behavioral. There are many factors that influence disease as we have learned, but we also learned that disease is usually prevalent within a whole culture, or society, because they are share similar beliefs and behaviors. Such as in the Native American example, its important for healthcare workers to not be offensive. They can do this by trying to understand other factors that the culture holds valuable. Anthropologist help healthcare workers ease their way into a community and enable to treat them in the best way possible without offending the community. Its not sensible, or productive, to force one way of doing things in every culture. Overall, a great reflection!

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