Medical Anthropology and African American Health

Medical Anthropology and African American Health

Medical Anthropology and African American Health

Medical Anthropology and African American Health


The field of medical anthropology is a discipline that incorporates the perspective of a wide range of approaches--from anthropologists, sociologists, epidemiologists, physicians, nurses, public health administrators, biologists, and many others, including the general public--to health care. This approach places culture and cultural relativism at the forefront and center of every model, and examines the ethics and fairness of health care issues associated with the African American population.


Medical Anthropology and African American Health is a teaching text and resource guide for students, health care professionals, health care researchers, and the general public that explains the relationship of culture to African American health care issues. The major emphasis of this book is a cultural relativistic approach to health care assessment, intervention and implementation programs designed especially for African Americans. "Cultural relativistic" refers to the concept of understanding and evaluating an individual and/or a group from his/her or the group's perspective.

Specifically, Chapter 1 discusses the field of medical anthropology and describes how the approach of medical anthropology is particularly appropriate for today's African American health care issues. Chapter 2 shows how the health beliefs and treatment actions of other identified U.S. ethnic minority populations are similar to African Americans' health beliefs and treatment actions.

Chapter 3 discusses African American health from a comprehensive, holistic sociocultural perspective. It explains African American culture within a cultural historical context. Chapter 3 highlights also the current and often neglected sociodemographic factors associated with the African American population and it describes how psychosocial factors such as religiosity/spirituality influence health. Finally, it shows how cultural historical health incidents have affected African Americans' perception of the U.S. health care system.

Chapter 4 highlights the major causes of death among African Americans and how culture is related to each disease. Chapter 5 describes African Americans' alternative medical practices from the perspective of their history, their health belief system, and their treatment patterns. Chapter 6 discusses the basic strategies for conducting applied medical anthropology studies. Qualitative ethnographic strategies used in clinical, public health, and community settings are highlighted. In addition, ethical issues are discussed in the context of being an African American health care researcher who studies African Americans.

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