W1 Reflection: Ethnomedical Approach

I believe that the ethnomedical approach to medical anthropology will be helpful to use and understand while studying health. This is because of the way it examines our systems of healthcare. It is valuable to know how different cultures look to model their understanding of illness and  process of treating illness. I also find it to be valuable because it looks at why and how individuals make the decisions they do when seeking healthcare. This is particularly important. As a healthcare provider it may be easy to criticize why someone has made certain decisions concerning treatment, or let a disease progress so far without seeking attention from a doctor. Using the ethnomedical approach allows us to understand the thought processes behind some of these decisions and allows for a better understanding of the patient.

The distinction between disease and illness is that illness factors in a patients experience of what they are going through. This is unlike disease ,which is a diagnosis from a doctor concluded from symptoms and tests for foreign pathogens. Illness accounts for more than just a diagnosis, including an individuals perception of deviation from health as set by cultural and societal norms. This was not obvious to me at first. I saw them as very similar and more as the definition of disease. I had not originally factored in the impact that culture, society, and other factors may have on health.

Miner is talking about American and western culture in the Nacirema article. I had read this in a previous anthropology class so already new, but the first time I read it I actually hadn’t realized until the end, and someone pointed out to me that nacirema backwards is american. I found it interesting to read the article again knowing the culture Miner is talking about.

One ritual referenced in the article is the presence of ritual centers in the home which contain a charm box filled with medicines and magical potions. This represents bathrooms  and medicine cabinets that often contain different drugs and makeup that we use on a daily basis to better our health and appearance. Miner states that,”The focus of this activity is the human body, the appearance and health of which loom as a dominant concern in the ethos of the people”. He is bringing to light the importance we put on appearance in our society. He continues to discuss how often there are so many new treatments of products that we often forget what their purpose is even for. Another ritual Miner discusses is the gifts that must be given to the latipso, where ceremonies are performed on the very sick. That even if the person survives the brutal ceremony they still must give a gift in order to leave. This is addressing the large cost that accompanies healthcare and hospital visits in our society, even after one goes through many painful and uncomfortable procedures while there.

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