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Unpacking Folk Medicine.
By Brianna Duff
Medical anthropology is the study of human health and disease, health care systems, and bio-cultural adaptation. To put it simply, a medical anthropologist researches the aspects that define the health of today’s populations. He or she will often compare the defining factors with the health of past populations, looking at changes between cultural and ethic groups and determining what’s going wrong with a society’s health system and how it might move forward. The field is a highly interdisciplinary one, linking anthropology to sociology, economics, and geography, as well as to medicine, nursing, and public health.
The research medical anthropologists do is incredibly applicable and necessary as it attempts to explain why certain diseases affect a population or why cultural standards may impact medical practices in a particular region. This kind of research is needed in all types of places, from universities to nonprofits to government organizations. Most importantly the research helps contribute to bettering medical services for groups of people in underprivileged societies.
In order to get this kind of research, a profession commonly spends several months living among the people they are studying and figuring out how they live and what they believe. This is where linguistics and anthropology really link together. Medical anthropologists will do interviews with the people around them and learn about the state of health or medicine in that community They might spend time with an African tribe that has been isolated from the outside world and develop ways to better educate the tribe on medical safety and procedures.
It is not just learning, but a helping hand to a group of people who may need changes to the health care they are providing when it comes to taking precautions against certain infections. It's a field that seeks to not only better our own understanding of history in regards to our well-being and medical practices, but also aims to change the future, as well.