Activity Post 5: The Critical Medical Anthropological Theory & Guatemalan Mortality – Victoria Stafford

This week I decided to focus solely on The Critical Medical Anthropological Theory due to its correlation with the issue in Guatemala I chose to address last week, as well as in my final post. Guatemala is one of the top countries facing poverty, hunger, as well as a staggeringly high infant and maternal mortality in their small communities. Many of the other perspectives I knew could relate to my research topic, however I felt this theory truly would help me further identify important information for the health issue facing thousands of Guatemalan women and children today.

The theory of Critical Medical Anthropology takes a look into the inequalities that encompass economic, political and social power, as well as how it effects the outcomes of various sets of people. Furthermore, it intensely focuses on the grasp of social inequality in determining a person’s health, rather than looking strictly from a biomedicine perspective, (Singer & Erickson, 2011). Unfortunately, this is often the case that leads to a high number of mortalities in Guatemala today. Barely half of the women in Guatemala have a skilled attendant at the birth, which correlates with the high mortality rate, (UNICEF, 2008-2012) while 80% of deliveries are aided by a comadrona, who has virtually no medical education (Hemphill, 2011). Social inequality creates difficulties for women in getting adequate care before after and during the birth of their baby, and without this medical assistance, the effects of social inequality can play a large role in complications that often occur for both mother and newborn baby.

For women in Guatemala, it is often unheard of to be viewed as an equal to men, and they are usually seen as inferior and unable to receive basic medical treatment, or to have an education in medicine in order to help others in need of care. While some programs have been set up for women, especially those who are pregnant, there continues to be thousands of others who should be seeking medical care, yet don’t due to pressure from society’s impression on them, cultural traditions, or oppressive men in their family or community.

While it might be hard to understand the intense hardship that goes on for women in Guatemala, after looking at the Critical Medical Anthropological Theory, it allows us to have a better understanding as to why Guatemala’s society and social structure has such a negative viewpoint on women being considered equal to men, as well as how this correlates with the high number of infant and maternal mortality. The World Health Organization noted that out of 1,000 live births, 23 children died before the age of 5, and 15 died as infants and newborns. These numbers although high, could be reduced with the help of proper and equal care to both men and women. Yet due to Guatemala’s Patriarchal society, men still hold much of the power and control over women, especially in the area of receiving health care or getting an education in medicine. Similar to other countries, it is obvious men benefit from society’s views much more than women. The cycle of women not being able to receive a proper education, as well as not being able to receive proper medical care is a vicious cycle that will continue to keep the mortality rate high until something is done about the lack of social equality for both men and women in Guatemala.


Work Cited:

“Country Cooperation Strategy at a Glance – Guatemala.” World Health Organization (2014): n. pag. Apr. 2014. Web. 31 July 2015. <>.

Hemphill, Margaret, and Copeland. “The Comadrona and Response to Obstetrical Emergencies: Maternal Mortality in Highland Guatemala.” Msulibraries. ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, Jan. 2011. Web. 31 July 2015. <!/search?ho=t&l=en&q=guatemala%20maternal%20mortality>.

Singer, Merrill, & Pamela I. Erickson. A Companion to Medical Anthropology. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

“Statistics.” UNICEF. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 July 2015. <>.

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