- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
From The CriticsReviewer: Paul Brodwin, Ph D(University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)
Description: This rich collection of case studies shows how the perspectives and methods of medical anthropology can strengthen public health interventions, in both developing societies and resource-poor populations in the United States. The 24 chapters are primarily on-the-ground accounts of research-driven and community-based programs addressing a host of major public health problems, including infectious disease, addiction, and reproductive health. This is the second edition of a book published in 1999.
Purpose: The editors argue that when public health interventions fail, the culprit is often inadequate attention to (1) the cultural assumptions inherent in both Western medicine and local community responses to illness and (2) the historical and political forces that shape epidemics. To remedy this problem, individual chapters demonstrate how cultural knowledge aids in planning successful programs of health education, immunization, and behavioral change. Mastering this toolkit of conceptual approaches and research methods is crucial to contemporary global public health initiatives.
Audience: The book is intended for students and professionals in a wide range of public health disciplines (epidemiology, evaluation, health policy and planning, and other social-behavioral sciences). It is not a methods cookbook, however, and it does not replace mainstream texts of research design. It instead demonstrates how skilled practitioners have applied fundamental qualitative research tools of anthropology (interviews, participant observation, and focus groups) to complex, multilevel interventions. The book is excellent for teaching, since the authors of the chapters are transparent about their methods and rationales for using them. The editors and chapter authors are all experienced with long-term, in-depth research.
Features: The introduction provides a helpful review of the fundamental orientation of cultural anthropology, intended chiefly for public health professionals without background in the area. The rest of the book is composed of standalone case studies that use anthropological approaches in various ways to elucidate local-level and indigenous responses to illness, to design and evaluate interventions that are tailored to local cultural frameworks, and to criticize public health policy that merely reproduces the inequalities and structural problems that generate ill health. The case study approach is fundamental to this book. Individual programs and communities are examined in great detail. Moreover, the authors explain in detail their methodological choices: an approach that will benefit future planners and evaluators. The book does not, however, feature much critical self-examination of the role of anthropology in public health, despite the mention of this perspective in the editors' introduction.
Assessment: This is the second edition of one of the major books on the interface of medical anthropology and public health. Since the major problems in global health — and the political and bureaucratic responses to them — transform so rapidly, a new and revised edition is warranted. This book is oriented towards public health practitioners, and, as befits the supremely pragmatic orientation of that field, it is a very helpful compendium of the applications of medical anthropology to solve specific problems. As a collection of case studies, it is probably without peer. It is broader in orientation than either Trostle's Epidemiology and Culture (Cambridge University Press, 1995) or Nichter's Global Health: Why Cultural Perceptions, Social Representations, and Biopolitics Matter (University of Arizona Press, 2008).