Anthropology - Other

An Introduction to Medical Anthropology



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Anthropology, in layman terms, is the study of humanity and the many forces that have come come to bear on our existence over time. It is a multifaceted discipline with varying branches of anthropology; Medical Anthropology being one. Humans are complex beings and cannot be studied in isolation from their environment, history or society. Medical anthropology is a subfield of anthropology that seeks to gain a greater understanding of the factors that affect our health and well being. The discipline attempts to draw a correlation between our health and our interrelationships with factors like globalization and other species. I will present here some of the recorded topics that have been dealt with by the Medical Anthropologist.

Disease Distribution And Health Disparity

Why is it that certain diseases are more prevalent among certain ethnic groups and economic classes? Could a person's lack of access to proper health care affect the prevalence of certain diseases in that group? In the Northern regions of Canada, for example, there are extremely high incidences of diabetes among the native population. Is it a result of lifestyle choices, inadequate medical resources or some other factor? All these are questions for the medical anthropologist to unravel.

Popular Health Culture And Domestic Health Care Practices

The concept of health is not the same for everyone. The concept of health and health care practices can vary widely from country to country or between urban and rural areas. Herbal cures, for example, are very popular in some countries and are even recognized by the drug administration in some countries as a bona fide "drug". Many forms of "medicine" are practiced worldwide. Medical anthropologists want to know the extent to which a people's health culture affects national health care policies.

Preventative Health And Harm Reduction Practices

What is it we do, as a people to protect ourselves against illnesses or anything that can harm us? This includes actions like Mammography, bone density studies and pap smears, among others. Prevention is an issue for both high risk people and those without any known risk factor for a specific illness. Many efforts are directed toward weight management, preventing the onset of diabetes and heart disease through diet and exercise.

The political Economy Of Health Care Provision.

Medical anthropologists examine the workings of health care products and services as they relate to the specific economy and politics. Is health care provision a competitive free market endeavor or is it a government run and controlled endeavor? . How much of our tax dollars go to pay for the service, dependent on the nature of the health care administration? Other issues are Hospital, pharmaceutical and physician systems and the role of public policy, patient's bill of rights and medical insurance in the scheme of things.

Changing Body Projects And Valued Bodily Attributes

We live in a world where body image seems to be at the core of everything we do. We are either too fat or too thin. There no longer seems to be a "normal" size if there is such a thing. A look at what is portrayed as "normal" body size in the media, both visual and printed, significantly impacts how we see our bodies and what we want to change about our bodies. Medical anthropologists are interested in how these dynamics play out.

The area of study in medical anthropology is indeed a vast one. The task is to uncover links between our health, our social milieu and our behavior within the context of anthropology. Folk medicine, magic and religious practices have historically been a staple of anthropologists Today, medical anthropologists continue to forge an understanding of the link between anthropology and medicine.

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