Why Anthropology Matters in Contemporary Health Research

Ethnographic work can be very valuable in public health and medicine, and anthropological theory is integral in researching and capturing the context of global health issues. There is a need for further communication between anthropologists and health professionals so that public health structures are more aware of core anthropological concerns. The study and analysis of humanity is vital in the fields of public health and medicine, especially in qualitative research. Anthropologists utilize their knowledge of humanity to consider positionality, bias, and validity in research, which public health and medical workers can fail to do in research that is not purely quantitative. Qualitative research in public health and medicine tends to be inadequate, often consisting of interviews rather than participant observation. Most public health and medical professionals are not trained in carrying out qualitative research, because they focus on unbiased quantitative research. While this is useful, more detailed observation-based research and field work can provide very important information. Case studies can be integral in study the efficacy of health system, as they take cultural, political, and historical context into consideration, which allows for fuller understanding of underlying issues.

Anthropologists have been an important part of implementation science, which is the practice of studying what causes the gaps in the implementation of clinical practices for screening, prevention, and treatment. Health and medical professionals often struggle with implementing necessary practices, and anthropologists study the cultural and contextual issues, such as nature of training, organizational policy, and beliefs about treatments’ benefits and harms, that could be causing this issue. By analyzing health care systems within a social and cultural context, anthropologists address topics such as syndemics, medicalization, and stigma. Another reason why anthropology matters in health professions is cultural competency. The relationship between medical professionals and their patients is crucial for success, and cultural awareness is very relevant in health. Especially among non-Western cultures, there is fear and mistrust of Western medical practices, and understanding these concerns can alleviate misunderstand and harm.

In order for the perspective of anthropologists to be heard in public health and medicine, anthropologists need to communicate in a culturally appropriate manner, that takes into account health care professionals’ perspectives. They can do this through by communicating relevant information in a clear and accessible manner through straightforward methodology. Anthropologists must present their work in a comprehensive, transparent manner that includes, methods of analysis, positionality, and potential biases. Furthermore, anthropologists have a higher level of responsibility for accuracy when working within the public health and medical fields and must have an informed understanding of their research.

Overall, anthropologists provide an important perspective into health and medical research. Their attention to social realities can greatly impact important public issues, and collaboration between anthropologists and health care workers can lead to increased health and cooperation among the public.

Public Health - Concerns, Approaches, and More

Source: https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/aman.12532

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