AAD 252 Lecture Notes - Lecture 7: Alternative Medicine, Medical Anthropology, Barbie

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HLTA02 Lecture 7
Culture WHO definition
- The learned, shared and transmitted values, beliefs,
norms and lifetime practices of a particular group that
guides thinking, decisions and actions in patterned
ways.
- WHO definition cited in Gillett et al, p. 59
- Encompasses many things
- Have a profound effect of how we view that world
Cultures and Meanings of Health
- Culture - Customs
- Food - Language
- Faith/religion - Art, drama, mus
- Attitudes - Rituals
- Beliefs - Behaviour
Exploring the Contributions of Social Anthropology
Things to Consider
- Define culture and how it intersects with
meanings of health
- Explore how culture is a social determinant of
health
o Culture is a macro level but also operating at
a micro level
- Discuss how material objects, social relations,
and ideas shape and influence culture
o Media can change culture
- Determine the cultural importance of health
care practitioners and healers
Examples
- The babies who nap in sub-zero temperatures
o Very common to leave child in stroller outside
coffee shop while parents are inside. Why?
Different cultural understandings of parenting
- A uniquely Korean Household Worry
o Theyre not allowed to sleep with fans. It can
kill you
- How to avoid getting hit by air in Italy
o Fear of getting hit by air because it will cause
problems
All these examples are due to cultural contexts
Disciplinary Perspectives in HLTA02
Health psychology
- History
- Human biology and medicine
- Health geography
- Medical anthropology
- sociology of health/ medicine
- Not the same as disciplinarily in research
collaboration!
- Different disciplinary traditions have unique
ways of approaching a subject.
- Fit more comfortably with certain models of
health.
- Different disciplinary knowledge and
methodological tools that shape their (approach
to) understanding and responding to a given
phenomenon.
- In anthropology, culture is really significant- it is
privileged. Other disciplines may consider
culture but it is not the primary focus as it is in
anthropology
Anthropology
SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY
- Studies all aspects of society from a cross-
cultural perspective.
- Focus on shared meanings that allow
community members to understand each other
and cooperate successfully.
Field Work + Ethnography:
- methods of observation+ deep (prolonged)
engagement to study “behaviour, customs,
rituals, interactions and practices.
- Spending a long time with people to understand
the culture
MEDICAL ANTHROPOLOGY
- Explores how cultural context shapes our
beliefs, knowledge, experiences and practices of
health, illness and healing.
- Important insights into the social construction
of health, illness & healthcare/healing.
- Concerned with the study of human societies &
cultures, and their development butfocus on
different kinds of phenomenon, pose different
sorts of questions, employ different methods,
and rely on and generate different kinds of
ideas and theories.
Culture Shapes our Experience of Illness
- Illness: Social, lived experience of symptoms
and suffering, and associated health seeking
behaviours for treatments and cures.
- Social Experience of Illness rooted in cultural
interpretations, meanings
- Illness Problems vs. Illness Complaints:
practical difficulties caused by illness related to
socio-cultural expectations vs. descriptions
patients give to healthcare providers.
o Example you go into doctors office and
complain about pain in your stomach and say
its in your appendix but you can make that
diagnosis because you are not the
professional with the knowledge
- Lay accounts and Health Worlds (the social and
religious context of health) are shaped by
cultural context. (W-B textbook, p.118)
- No universal categories of mental illness across
cultures (Scheffs labelling theory, (W-B, p.122);
o Not a single mental illness that you can name
that every single culture in the world would
agree on- every cultural understands an
illness differently. It is not universal
Common Factors that constitute Culture
1. Dynamic process of learned, shared, transmitted
behaviours that influence members of a given
Culture Sharing Group / CSG. (p.56)
2. Provides a frame of reference and worldview
for CSG members to interpret and understand
life, find meaning in their experiences.
3. Transmitted + maintained via shared
in/tangible elements symbols, objects, social
relations, ideas, knowledgethat are
sometimes only understood by group members.
Culture
- Dynamic, changing; Based on ideological,
technological, and sociological sub-systems.
- Relate but not the same as race or ethnicity:
o race implies common genetic characteristics
o race is socially constructed. It Is not the same
as culture
o ethnicity loosely refers to the origin of birth
- CSG members are not homogenous; may not
adhere to all aspects of their culture
- Shape perceptions and experiences of health,
illness, health care, and how we (are expected
to) behave when we are ill
CULTURE is an important Determinant of Health
- Informs assumptions about the body and
causes of illness
- Illness Narratives
o Shape how we perceive + communicate our
needs, health, illnesses, etc.
o Shape our thoughts on who should
communicate with healthcare providers
o Shape our beliefs about what constitutes
appropriate care, when to seek it out
o Inform the caregiver/patient relationship
Cultures of Health/Care
Western Medicine
- Medicine as Culture: dominance of biomedicine
- Based on positivist science; “legitimate
knowledge”
- Use of technology + meds to target + treat
specific ailments
- Value patient’s right to self-determination +
autonomy
- Care by expert professionals
“Folk Health Sector”
- Holistic view of people (mind, body, spirit);
o health inseparable from spirituality
- Health beliefs via cultural or kin groups; can be
based on supernatural
- Care by trusted members of the community,
e.g., shamans
o Care can be ministered by any trusted
member in the community
- Close attention to experiences and harmony
o Individual experiences; are you in harmony
with the kin, the land
Holistic Health and a Complex web of Causation
Depict holistic health of first nations groups
Health Worlds Spiritual Health & Healing
- Healing and treatment are not the same thing
- Expanded understanding of the DoH.
- Emphasis on healing rather than treating.
- Attention to the spirit and the body.
- Spiritual Health: Indicated by a sense of peace,
hope, purpose, commitment or worth.
- Found in religious practice, connection with
values, in nature, art, sport, music, etc.
- Understanding the relevance of spiritual health
enables us to better support people and
improve their sense of well-being.
- Based in a socially-driven model of well-being
FILM CASE STUDY: Health & Illness in Hmong culture
- How was death diagnosed by Paja tao on uncle
Por?
o Broken nose
o But in western health, we put tubes up the
nose which could be something that breaks
the nose
- Whats happening with Paja tao?
o He’s not sleeping, he has nightmares, he cries
a lot, he complains of throat pain, he is
worried about his family
- In western medicine, how may we interpret Paja
Taos experiences?
o Depression
o May be treated with antidepressant
- What do Hmong culture believe is the cause of
Paja Taos sadness?
o His Spirit and soul have left him
- What are the treatments for sadness in Hmong
culture?
- Contact ancestors with animal rituals
- Throughout the film, we see American culture
ever present even when it is not spoken about
(coke cans, barbie doll at funeral, toys, games,
Halloween candy vs brocolli)
Summary
- Anthropology: exposes insider accounts;
demonstrates importance of holistic interpretations +
understandings of health among lay groups; how lay
beliefs and practices are rooted in a complex web of
knowledge and power.
- Medical Anthropology: a sub-discipline of social
anthropology; demonstrates importance of culture as
a determinant of individuals understandings +
experiences of illness and treatment.
- Health beliefs and norms around health and illness
are often transmitted in cultures; what constitutes
medicine and health care is culturally determined.
- Biomedical culture dominant in North America,
based on objectivity and scientific rationality.
Lay perspectives can move across different levels of models
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Document Summary

The learned, shared and transmitted values, beliefs, norms and lifetime practices of a particular group that guides thinking, decisions and actions in patterned ways. Who definition cited in gillett et al, p. 59. Have a profound effect of how we view that world. Define culture and how it intersects with meanings of health. Explore how culture is a social determinant of health. Culture is a macro level but also operating at a micro level. Discuss how material objects, social relations, and ideas shape and influence culture: media can change culture. Determine the cultural importance of health care practitioners and healers. Very common to leave child in stroller outside coffee shop while parents are inside. How to avoid getting hit by air in italy. Fear of getting hit by air because it will cause problems. All these examples are due to cultural contexts. Not the same as disciplinarily in research collaboration! Different disciplinary traditions have unique ways of approaching a subject.

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