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Medical Systems

There is nothing like having children to place us in contact with a medical system. First, it begins with pregnancy (do I confirm with a home pregnancy test or a doctor's visit?).  Then, we face choices about medical care during the pregnancy (which doctor, or rather should I have a midwife, which tests to perform or refuse, how often should visits be?, what nutritional advice to follow) and the birth (hospital birth, midwife center or home birth). Upon birth come the

Explanations for Illness

by Dr. Dennis O'Neil, Palomar College

"How illness is explained often varies radically from culture to culture. Likewise, the methods considered acceptable for curing illness in one culture may be rejected by another. These differences can be broadly generalized in terms of two explanatory traditions--naturalistic and personalistic. ...The naturalistic explanation assumes that illness is only due to impersonal, mechanistic causes in nature that can be potentially understood and cured by the application of the scientific method of discovery. … Students learning to be doctors or nurses in medical schools throughout the modern world are taught this kind of naturalistic explanation. However, there are actually several different naturalistic medical systems in use today. In Latin America, many people still also rely on humoral pathology to explain and cure their illnesses. … Naturalistic medical systems similar to European humoral pathology were developed independently in India (Ayurvedic system) and China (acupuncture and herbal medicine)." see more about Medical Anthropology

questions of tests (in some places the baby is whisked immediately away from the mother and washed, given eye drops, vaccinated orally, weighed and tagged with an identity bracelet), breastfeeding, and vaccination requirements. Later, there will be questions of which doctor, which tests, which shots, which type of medicines. No matter where in the world we give birth, our children will be born into a dominant medical system that will shape newspaper and magazine articles, neighbors' conversations and advice given at all child-related appointments. If we are lucky, our children can be born into a culture that allows different medical views and we can find a doctor that has studied varied types of medicine and is capable of tailoring his or her medical care accordingly. In Germany, for example, it is possible to find a Western medical doctor who has also professional qualifications in homeopathic medicine, Chinese medicine and/or anthroposophic medicine. What a gift that is for every patient.


Anthropology on the difference between Illness and Disease

"In the Western World, people usually do not make a distinction between illness and disease. These two terms seem to mean essentially the same thing and are often used interchangeably. However, it is important to define illness and disease differently when considering some non-western cultural traditions. Disease is an objectively measurable pathological condition of the body. Tooth decay, measles, or a broken bone are examples. In contrast, illness is a feeling of not being normal and healthy. Illness may, in fact, be due to a disease. However, it may also be due to a feeling of psychological or spiritual imbalance. By definition, perceptions of illness are highly culture related while disease usually is not."go to Medical Anthropology Palamar


Refugees and US health care

"When refugees come to his office, Waktola said he takes at least 30 minutes with each one, and tries to understand their mental health and lifestyle along with their physical health. Sometimes, he said, they have quietly suffered a traumatic, difficult life. . . . This kind of forced displacement can make refugees particularly vulnerable to mental illness, Burke said. And their treatment is further complicated by distrust in pharmacies, doctors and a system that could be very different than what they were accustomed to back home."

"We could do a lot more to understand the challenges they go through," Burke said. "And for them to understand how our system works would go a long way."" see Kaiser Health News article

Confessions from a Pediatrician

by Dr. Susan R. Johnson

During my residency, I was taught to treat children based on a specific diagnosis. In my continuity clinic, pills were dispensed to children with chronic migraine headaches and potent laxatives were given to children with constipation. My Attending Physician in the continuity clinic did not believe in finding out about stressors in the life of the child or family. He considered that a waste of time. Even on the inpatient wards, I was actually forbidden during a night on call to ask any child I admitted how they liked school and what things they liked to do for fun. readmore logo


natural child magazine cover
'Separation anxiety disorder'

by Chaley-Anne Scott

"In our fast-paced, materialistic world dominated by the dual-income family, it is common for children as young as eight months to be labeled with "Separation Anxiety Disorder" if they protest strongly about being separated from their parents.

Everywhere you look, parents are being encouraged to nip this behavior in the bud. Leaflets and articles about the subject can be found in magazines, childcare centers, and doctors' offices, all advocating a similar approach to this so-called "problem" in our young. Apparently, we are doing our children and ourselves a great disservice if we don't separate from them from a very early age. But what is wrong with this picture?" go to naturalchildmagazine


Scientific research on the importance of attachment on all relationships later in life, also with God

by Christian Jarrett

BPS blog

"Children's sense of God's closeness is apparently related, not to their mother's religiosity, but to their mother's attachment style - that is, whether the mother is calm and confident in her relationships or anxious and uncertain. Specifically, Rosalinda Cassibba and her colleagues have shown that the children of securely attached mothers (religious or not) tend to think that God is closer, as compared with the children of insecurely attached mothers.

The new finding builds on claims made last century by the British psychoanalyst John Bowlby that attachment style is transmitted from generation to generation (via non-genetic means). The new result suggests that a mother's attachment style affects the kind of attachment her child forms not just with her, but with other potential caring figures, even non-corporeal ones." go to British Psychological Society blog


Yoghurt instead of antibiotics for yeast infections would mean less profits for pharmaceutical companies

A recent article showed the blind obeisance of Americans to pharmaceuticals: "Yeast and bacterial infections affect about 25% to 30% of women in the U.S. on any given day. Currently, doctors treat all infections with the same antibiotics, as if they were caused by the same bacterial problems. The results aren't ideal. On average, about 70% of women who are treated for bacterial vaginal infections will experience a recurrence, says study co-author Rebecca Brotman, assistant professor of epidemiology and public health at the Institute for Genome Sciences at the University of Maryland."

In many cases, plain organic yoghurt helps instantly by changing the bacterial balance, and has no side effects and costs very little for the pharmaceutical approach, see Time


Reconstructing Motherhood and Disability in the Age of "Perfect" Babies "In this rich ethnographic study, Gail Landsman culturally and historically contextualizes the experiences of contemporary U.S. mothers of children with disabilities. She devotes special attention to their encounters with biomedical practitioners, whose power to diagnose profoundly shapes whether and how families can access health and social services for their children." [view source]

book review by Erica Prussing, Medical Anthropology Quarterly, vol. 24, no. 3, September 2010, pg 422.

Chinese American seniors

"The ten project videos ... help Chinese American seniors overcome cultural, language, and navigational barriers so they may communicate effectively with their adult children caretakers and health care providers. The media was designed to help them navigate the U.S. health care system. Each video focuses on a health topic of keen interest to seniors and provides them clear background information and step-by-step instruction." go to DiversityRx


When grandmothers and nurses say different things

"African American mothers have reported that they do listen and believe the health care provider's advice. However, once that advice has been given, if they are later confused or have questions, they will resort to whomever they believe is the most experienced with child rearing. This person is usually the grandmother, mother, or an aunt. Among some Hispanic women language differences often can affect the understanding of proper feeding practices so many Hispanic women have reported turning to their grandmothers or aunts. Interestingly, these two relatives are more often chosen among Puerto Rican women over their mothers regarding child-rearing advice. The advice from these relatives is often based on beliefs that, unfortunately, can conflict with advice given from a nurse or a doctor."go to Pediatric Nursing




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