Week 5 Activity Post

In relation to my chosen health issue of poor prenatal care among pregnant women and malnourishment of children in the Philippines, the best theoretical perspective to use in examining this issue is the critical medical anthropological theory. During the past few decades, a way of viewing health as more than just biological factors has been becoming more and more prevalent. In critical medical anthropology, it is important to understand the health is largely a construct of the combination of biological, social, economic, and political factors within a region. Typically, this perspective focuses on a population or community of people and not so much on an individual basis.

As stated in Lecture 1.4: Introducing Theory 3: Critical Medical Anthropological Theory, this perspective focuses on the inequalities (social, economic, political) that cause better or worse outcomes for specific groups of people (Gabriel, 2018). Biomedicine has done a wonderful job of direction our attention to the biological and chemical reasons behind health issues, but now, it seems like that’s all we think about when we think of health. Contrary to the current popular belief, human health heavily relies on social and political issues within a region, such as the Philippines. Often times, power and authority helps some people at the expense of others, similar to how mothers in urban Philippines with money and power are close to hospitals, while those without power in rural areas aren’t receiving any prenatal or child care. Also noted in this lecture is that critical medical anthropology focuses on analyzing how behaviors by people with power affect the health of those without any power.

According to “A Companion to Medical Anthropology”, there is a way for social/political/economic dynamics to “get under the skin”, so to speak. (Singer, Erickson, 2011). In the Philippines especially, with growing levels of hunger, disease, child malnutrition, and maternity deaths, there is a great need for more research and publicity about the impacts that the social hierarchy can have on a person’s health. Many organizations have aimed to do so, while not undermining the affects biology has on health, just increasing the view that health is also inherited through cultural and social aspects of a community (Singer, Erickson, 2011).

The critical medical anthropological theory is the best theory to use in examining prenatal care and malnourishment in the Philippines because most of the reasons why these health issues are arising in this country is due to socio-economic or geographical factors influenced by wealth and power of one group of people. As I mentioned in last week’s activity post, the main factor impeding mothers from receiving prenatal care is their income and area of residence (urban/rural). With the help of epidemiological anthropology, we know that people who live in rural areas have higher chances of having complications with birthing and nourishing a child. So now, critical medical anthropologists would ask: why? They would then determine that those that couldn’t afford simple things like television or radio (only 23% in rural areas could) couldn’t listen or watch Philippine Department of Health sponsored health campaigns. (Becker, et al., 1993). It would be beneficial to see that the lack of power and wealth in rural areas of the Philippines left those people to suffer in the birthing process because travel times were too long and costs were too high; people with power in the cities were using up health care resources disproportionately because they took advantage of the affordable costs and nearby infrastructure. Overall, using this anthropological perspective to look at the poor prenatal care in the Philippines could tell us who suffers and who benefits from the distribution of power (health care or wealth) and could help integrate the aspects of biology and culture within this issue (Singer, Erickson, 2011).


Singer, Merrill, and Pamela I Erickson. “A Companion to Medical Anthropology.” Wiley Online Library, Michigan State University Libraries, 2011, catalog.lib.msu.edu/search~S39?%2FYa%2Bcompanion%2Bto%2Bmedical%2Banthropology:

Gabriel, C. Lecture 1.4: Introducing Theory 3: Critical Medical Anthropological Theory, 2018, D2L. http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp270-us18/lecture-videos/feminist-theory/

Becker, Stan, et al. “The Determinants of Use of Maternal and Child Health Services in Metro Cebu, the Philippines.” JSTOR, 1993, www-jstor-org.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/stable/pdf/40652001.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3A7c2f5cc3f23b19711e0d875a4cd6ca03.



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