W5: Economical or Medical?

According to Paul Farmer, “structural violence” is a way of describing different arrangements that put people in danger (Farmer). These arrangements relate to the political and economic organization of society (Farmer). It is safe to say that not everyone in the world has the same access to things such as medication, surgical procedures, and cleanliness. For example, a person who is in a highly toxic environment is more likely to have breast cancer as apposed to a person who is not (Gabriel). But this is not an example of structural violence. A disease like Ebola has more of a political and economical relation to stopping it. Since March 2014, statistics show that West Africa has had the largest outbreak of the Ebola virus (“2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa”). The widespread of Ebola has been controlled since then, but cases in West Africa can still exist and spread (“2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa”). In the United States, you do not see the disease spreading rapidly, and the reasoning lies within the differences between Africa in the United States Health system. Economically, West Africa is very poor; meaning they cannot afford proper health care. The United States is privileged with the ability to isolate and treat anyone who has contracted this virus. This stops the virus from spreading all over. Since Africans do not have the same access to proper health care, the virus is free to spread wherever it may like. This is an obvious medical problem, but more so a political and economical problem, in my opinion. The world should fight future Ebola outbreaks equally around the world. Medical assistance should not be something that is only to those who are more privilege than others, and I’m sure that most people would agree with this statement.

Another problem linked to economical and political problems is the spread of disease in refugee camps. Serious problems related to the cleanliness of food and water can take some of the blame for the rapid spread of certain diseases in refugee camps (Sinha). Cholera outbreak have been linked to camps in places like South Sudan, Sierra Leone and Libya (Sinha). In the first lecture from this section, Cholera was mentioned when speaking about Peru (Gabriel). The reason for this outbreak was because the water supply system had not been updated in years (Gabriel). This is an example of structural violence because it can relate back to Peru’s political problem. If the country did not have enough money for a new water system, is the outbreak of Cholera more of an economical or medical issue?


Farmer, Paul, and Haun Saussy. Partner to the Poor: A Paul Farmer Reader. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010.

Gabriel, Cynthia, Ph. D. “Critical Medical Anthropology Theory” Lecture, Online, August 4, 2016.

Sinha, Vidushi. “Refugee Camps Spread Life-Threatening Diseases.” ReliefWeb. Accessed August 05, 2016. http://reliefweb.int/report/world/refugee-camps-spread-life-threatening-diseases.

“2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2016. Accessed August 05, 2016. https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/2014-west-africa/.

6 thoughts on “W5: Economical or Medical?

  1. Hi Lauren!
    It is obvious to many of us, and very obvious after this week’s information, that we, as the human race, do not all have the same measures set in place for medication, surgical procedures, and cleanliness, but what really surprised me the most was that sometimes things that could be helpful to its native residents are taken away and given to a country that can pay for it. I never had thought about that before it was mentioned in this week’s lecture but I’m sure it happens more often than most people are willing to admit. I think that ties in perfectly with your title choice. That really is an economic choice that takes preference over medical. You brought it up as well but I think we often forget how politically based our economic decisions are which then leads to the medical care provided. As for the refugee camps, these really are a huge problem not only for the refugees but for the residents of the country in which they come to. You would think that people would see the benefit in treating these refugees because anything they have could easily spread into the natives of that country but that is at no economic benefit to the natives so many do not care about it. It really is crazy how society has shaped us.

  2. Hi Lauren! I really enjoyed reading your blog post this week. I agree with the statements you made about the necessity of fighting future Ebola outbreaks equally around the world. Medical assistance is something that should be provided to everyone, no matter their economic or social status. I think this is something that really needs to be focused on more within the medical field. Like you said, when people are less privileged, they tend to be more exposed to, or prone to, contracting viruses and diseases. Examples of these could be like the one you mentioned, surrounding the problem of dirty drinking water and the easy contraction and spread of viruses, like Cholera, that could reside in that water. These are the kinds of issues that need to be focused on the most. It is simple things like making sure that the less fortunate and more vulnerable people have clean drinking water, that can make the difference in stopping the spread of disease. This could, in turn, improve treatments to these kinds of diseases because there will not be as many people who will need to be treated, allowing the doctors to focus more on finding very effective methods of treatment. I think if we focus on stopping the spread of disease in simple ways like this, while also considering the less fortunate that are being affected, this would be very effective in stopping future outbreaks.

  3. I agree with what you said about Africa not having as much access to healthcare as the United States does which is why the virus spread so rapidly and in such high numbers. It is structural violence because the way the world is structured certain societies are better off and have more money than others. I like how you said that medical assistance should be granted to everyone and not just to those who are more privileged or have more money. Of course it takes money to use the medicine and science to fight diseases and outbreaks such as this one but I think that is something our world needs to figure out or work on to be able to grant everyone access to a healthy life. Also how you talked about people who live in more toxic areas or near these factories that give off toxic fumes and waste which can cause cancer, these factories and toxic areas should be moved into areas where there aren’t communities of people living around them. Living costs I’m sure tend to be cheaper in these toxic areas which is all some people can afford but they shouldn’t be forced to live near those toxic areas if someone is able to control or do something about it.

  4. Lauren,
    Sometimes I find myself forgetting how lucky we are to be in the Western world with such easy access to quality care and medicine. Just as you brought up, we did not see an Ebola outbreak in the United States in 2014 even comparable to the magnitude of the one in West Africa. Dr. Paul Farmer correctly attributed it to the lack of supplies, staff and quality health care systems available in the afflicted areas. Agreed, the epidemic of Ebola was a political and economical issue especially involving the World Health Organization. As I stated in my post, their budget for crisis management and treatment research was cut by nearly 50 percent within the past four years (Amy Goodman), not leaving much resources to be lent to countries in need, such as Sierra Leon, Libya and South Sudan. Without WHO, West Africa depended on private “donations” from other countries and organizations, such as the 4.3 million dollar project Partners in Health donated to build the Butaro Hospital in Rwanda (Farmer). However, this is still not enough to help stop the spread of Ebola. The country still resorts to citywide quarantines and isolations without treatment. This is not to say that WHO is not doing anything to help the suffering countries though, their funds are just sourced elsewhere, such as trying to control the ongoing malaria problem in almost all of the African countries (Gething et. al).

    • Annie Wilkinson and Melissa Leach
    Afr Aff (Lond) first published online December 4, 2014 doi:10.1093/afraf/adu080

    Gething, Peter w., Katherine E. Battle, Samir Bhatt, David L. Smith, and Thomas P. Eisele. Declining malaria in Africa: improving the measurement of progress. 39th ed. Vol. 13. N.p.: BioMed Central Ltd, 2014. https://malariajournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2875-13-39.

  5. Hi Lauren,
    I think the title of your post does a good job of summarizing the points you made. However, I do feel your post is a bit too vague, and I can’t seem to figure out your view point, other than saying our current system is bad. Which of course, it is. Obviously, as you stated, people from more advanced societies receive more effective treatment. The problem I have though, is that you don’t really say much about how we can fix it, or go into more depth with your statement; all you say is that it is bad. Ideally, we could give everyone equal medical treatment, all countries would have similar economic power (among other things) and poverty would be nonexistent. The problem is, that’s just not the world we live in and there are too many barriers preventing it from being that way any time soon. The sad reality is, that we are all born into a certain amount of privilege or misfortune, and as far as I can see there is no way to even out the playing field in that regard without disrupting society as we know it. In order to provide the Ebola patients in Africa with the same medical treatment that would be given in the U.S, there are few scenarios that would accomplish equality, and among those none are plausible solutions because they would require extreme measures. For example, taking funds from the American economy to balance it with the African economy would require some form of common government to regulate this balance, which would probably require years of war before progress could begin. I guess in short the point I’m making here is that unless everyone in America is equal to each other, we cannot hope to make other countries equal to us. Since each society has a definite amount of money, we can’t just drop everything the U.S. is doing in order to send trillions of dollars in supplies to Africa (not to mention the resources needed to build proper medical facilities). We also can’t afford to send every single Ebola patient to American hospitals in some sort of make-shift quarantined airline.
    Lastly I want to say that I didn’t feel I fully understood your definition of structural violence. This too was incredibly vague and the example you give in the first paragraph doesn’t correlate to your explanation of structural violence.

  6. Hello, I agree with what you said about the world coming together to fight this disease. I think it is very important for everyone to equally have benefits to health care. The governments have to first come together and create proper policies then it comes to having the money to build more facilities. It is sad how unfortunate Africa is and how they don’t seem to be getting anywhere in terms of government, environment, policies, money and health. This needs to change and I hope one day it does. I also agree with you about the rapid spread of disease in refugee camps. The weather conditions and lack of hospital access makes people even more prone to infection. These people need to move or find a new location if the one they are in is contagious or life threatening. I read about a lot of these camps having God in their spirit, which keeps them going. It’s nice to see people who are facing awful scenarios still have hope. I believe that faith is an essential part of life especially when times are rough. Hopefully one day these people find the resources they need to stay healthy and live prosperous lives. Good post!

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