Activity Week 5: Critical Medical Anthropology- Abby Strickland

Because this course is focused on women and health issues I have chosen critical medical anthropology as the perspective I will look at my issue through. Critical medical anthropology looks at medical issues, whether they be outbreaks of disease, trends in infant mortality rates, or in my focus topic domestic violence and its effects on women’s health. Critical medical anthropology, as explained in the lecture from week one of this course, is all about who benefits and who suffers from political and social issues and the impact that this has on the health of the population. The big question is stated to be “what inequalities in political, economic, or social power lead to better or worse outcomes for particular groups of people?” (Week One Lecture 1.4). One would assume that it would be almost second nature to connect these two things but that is often not the case and many people do not connect political policy which directly effects the economy to also have an impact on healthcare but the truth is that in many of the globe’s poorer countries even the smallest policy can have a major impact on the health of the population. One thing said in the lecture that really struck me is that even the American health care system is impacted by these factors although we may not realize it. Because I want to go into the healthcare industry in the future as my career it will be important for me to take all of these factors into account and to see the real people being treated vs the patient which is often the case in my experience in the medical industry. It was mentioned that in the example of cancer in the united states we are so focused on coming up with a cure that we have overlooked some very important factors such as the use of cancer causing agents as well as the impact socioeconomic status has on exposure to these agents. Some examples used in the course lecture are the Cholera outbreak of 1992 in Peru, it was found that those who lived in rural areas were dying at high rates than those who lived in cities and near the close. It was discovered that because cholera is spread through water and because Peru was not a wealthy country and other factors Peru had not been able to update its water system. Also the people living in the cities near the close were able to receive better care because there was a higher concentration of resources in these areas. The final example I’ll take from the lecture of week one is the impact of economic factors on women’s lives in terms of menstruation and education where in many areas lack of supplies and resources during menstruation leads the girls to have to stay home during their periods this furthers the gap between women and men in these areas and strengthens the weaknesses of the situation for these young girls. (Week One Lecture 1.4). I selected the article given to us in the week 5 resources by Marcia Inhorn which explains the similarities and differences between medical anthropology and epidemiology. Inhorn uses this article to explain the differences and similarities or “divergences and convergences” between epidemiology and anthropology. She begins with the fact that epidemiologist study diseases and anthropologist study the experiences of those who suffer from the diseases. Inhorn argues that although we see these as distinct topics she along with medical anthropologists argues that “disease itself is a cultural construction” (Inhorn 1995). I feel that critical medical anthropology is the best viewpoint for me to use for my final report on the effect of domestic violence and its effects on women in Turkey. The statistics are there that this violence is part of the social norm in Turkey and the statistics can be used to study how the different populations based on location, socioeconomic status, and other factors all effect whether women experience domestic violence and the impact this has on their and their children’s lives.


Inhorn, Marcia. “Medical Anthropology and Epidemiology: Divergences or Convergences?” 40.3 (1995): 285-90. Web. <>.

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