Anthropology 2290F/G Lecture Notes - Harm Reduction, Linguistic Anthropology, Stethoscope

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Sept, 09, 2013
Introduction to Medical Anthropology
-Medical anthropology is defined by the Society for Medical Anthropology as a subfield that draws upon social,
cultural, biological, and linguistic anthropology to understand:
- those factors which influence health and well-being -the experience and distribution of illness
-the prevention and treatment of sickness -healing processes
-the social relations of therapy management
-the cultural importance and utilization of pluralistic medical systems
-Basically medical anthropology is the study of health and well-being and the systems that support them
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTJujwPN7hs
-Some aspects of culture in the video were in the language barriers shown in both the positive and negative
example of how patients should be dealt with
-The doctor had the power in these relations and in the good example they asked if the patient understood their
treatment and made their instructions very clear while in the bad example the doctor cut the patient off and used
words that they did not understand thereby complicating the treatment process
-In the good example the doctor was friendly and listened to the patient and answered all questions while basically
the opposite was done in the poor example with the doctor cutting off the patient and ignoring their questions
-The doctors both were wearing the standard white coats and stethoscopes making them look official and like they
were in control while the patients already in a vulnerable state of sickness are made to wear robes that can only
enhance the feeling of vulnerability
-Doctors using scientific language indicates their knowledge and role in the medical system and while that
knowledge is important it is not necessarily conducive to use the scientific words with patients
-The textbook makes reference to the culture of biomedicine and doctors in our culture are shown representing
two of the most recognizable signifiers of this which are the white lab coat and the stethoscope
-The coat serves the function of a protective covering for the doctor but it also serves a symbolic role
-The stethoscope has an important use but its wearing around the next has become an important cultural symbol
-Most times in the biomedical culture we notice the relationship between passive and active participants in the
system because there is a division between those with the knowledge and those with the symptoms
-This relationship has a history that developed and continues to do so within the history of the biomedical system
-As a medical anthropologist the relationship between doctor and patient is one of the topics that you can
research but other topics include:
-health ramifications of ecological “adaptation and maladaptation”
-popular health culture and domestic health care practices -local interpretations of bodily processes
-changing body projects and valued bodily attributes -preventative health and harm reduction practices
-perceptions of risk, vulnerability and responsibility for illness and health care
-risk and protective dimensions of human behavior, cultural norms and social institutions
-the experience of illness and the social relations of sickness -the political economy of health care provision
-the range of factors driving health, nutrition and health care transitions
-ethnomedicine, pluralistic healing modalities, and healing processes -the social organization of clinical interactions
-the cultural and historical conditions shaping medical practices and policies
-medical practices in the context of modernity, colonial, and post-colonial social formations
-the use and interpretation of pharmaceuticals and forms of biotechnology
-the commercialization and commoditisation of health and medicine -disease distribution and health disparity
-differential use and availability of government and private health care resources
-the political ecology of infectious and vector borne diseases, chronic diseases and states of malnutrition, and violence
-the possibilities for a critically engaged yet clinically relevant application of anthropology
-As medical anthropologist we are also interested in the systems that construct health and well-being
-Discussion by Dr. Paul Farmer (noted medical anthropologist): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcTtKvKC-5E
-Health and well-being can be separated into micro, meso and macro levels meaning the individual, their access to
the system and the system itself
Sept, 09, 2013
-As a medical anthropologist you can explore these systems and power relationships that exist within them and
across systems
-Culture is represented in this video in that they are talking about treatment with biomedicine (Western/scientific)
and the fact that the US has a private system of health care
-Historical context plays a huge role in how countries like Haiti deal with natural and disease related disasters
because they were such a poor country due to their debt to France they had no way of providing the infrastructure
to help their people in the first place let alone after the massive earthquake took what they had built up
-They are unable to move forward because of lack of funds and fears of other outbreaks like cholera which was
brought in by UN troops and their bad water and sanitation only adds to these issues
- As a medical anthropologist you will also explore topics like social inequality
-It is important to remember that what is considered to be health, well-being and healing are culturally determined
and we should not judge other cultural more spiritual ways of healing as any less conducive to good health than
our own scientific medicine
-The textbook applies a common definition of health that defines it as “not only physical, mental, and social well-
being but also the ability to participate in everyday activities in family, community, and work, commanding the
personal and social resources necessary to adapt to changing circumstances” but while this is a good definition it
may not be complete because people disagree on how health can be universally understood
-As a medical anthropologist you will learn to challenge universal definitions
-Health and the health system also require a certain amount of faith or buy-in from participants and cultural
expectations can play a role in this (have to go by “don’t judge a book by its cover” when looking at health care
institutions because some smaller less funded institutions offer superior care)
-We have to ask ourselves how the notion of better care is constructed and why one institution might offer better
services to the poor than the other

Document Summary

Medical anthropology is defined by the society for medical anthropology as a subfield that draws upon social, cultural, biological, and linguistic anthropology to understand: Those factors which influence health and well-being. The cultural importance and utilization of pluralistic medical systems. Basically medical anthropology is the study of health and well-being and the systems that support them http://www. youtube. com/watch?v=wtjujwpn7hs. Some aspects of culture in the video were in the language barriers shown in both the positive and negative example of how patients should be dealt with. In the good example the doctor was friendly and listened to the patient and answered all questions while basically the opposite was done in the poor example with the doctor cutting off the patient and ignoring their questions. Doctors using scientific language indicates their knowledge and role in the medical system and while that knowledge is important it is not necessarily conducive to use the scientific words with patients.