The theoretical perspective that I think is the best choice to examine maternal death in Sierra Leone is the critical medical anthropological theory. The theory revolves around the idea that there are a magnitude of factors that go into the outcomes for people. Many of the disadvantages that women face are due to a wide variety of political, economic, and social influences. When thinking about Sierra Leone and the issue they face with high maternal death rates, approaching it from a critical medical anthropological theory standpoint allows for a lot of thought about all of the influencing factors. Maternal death is not just due to one simple cause. These death rates are largely due to economical issues. Many women die during pregnancy and after birth because they cannot afford to get proper medical attention. Medical practitioners in Sierra Leone need to make a living as well, so they simply can’t provide free care to all, because they cannot sustain a practice this way. This also leads into influences from a political standpoint. The government has tried to promote free, or low cost, health clinics to pregnant women, but often times they are out of reach for the women who actually need them. Even though the government has increased spending on health care related causes, the issue still remains at large and it’s difficult to tell if their initiatives are just to “put on a show” in a sense, or to actually try to help. There are also social influences that connect with maternal death rates. Sierra Leone is a country of deep rooted tradition and social norms that don’t always keep pregnant women the safest. Many women are subject to the opinion of their husbands and don’t receive proper health care. Men traditionally have a large role in determining what kind of care his wife will receive and it is usually a route of uninterrupted, “natural”, and isolated pregnancy and birth. The theory of critical medical anthropology allows us to examine the health issue in Sierra Leone with great depth and understanding. This theory gives the structure to dive deeper than simply understanding what the issue is and what is causing it. We are able to see what the issue is, what’s causing it, who is involved, why it hasn’t been fixed, why it has gotten worse, why the people don’t try to fix it themselves, and so many other things that couldn’t be understood without looking though all the lenses that the critical medical anthropological theory provides. As explained in A companion to Medical Anthropology it’s important to take a step back from the biology of a health issue and approach it from a more socio-cultural perspective. This helps turn health problems into social problems instead of cold-cut medical problems. By looking at a health issues political, economic, and social influences we are able to see how all of the factors of our lives can impact our simple biology and health. Using this theory also provides a stronger connection between those researching the issue or trying to fix it and those who are suffering from it. When you are able to sit back and see the greater picture, you are much more impacted by the magnitude of the problem and how it should be addressed.
Singer, M., & Erickson, P. I. (2013). A companion to medical anthropology. Chichester [England: Wiley-Blackwell.