Changing Health and Changing Culture: The Yemenite Jews in Israel

By Michael A. Weingarten | Go to book overview

5
Plagues and Pestilence

The most obvious single difference between traditional and modern societies in the pattern of disease is the virtual disappearance of infectious diseases as a cause of disability or death. The Yemenite Jewish experience is a good example of this process, and in this chapter we will map the details of this change, which occurred very soon after immigration to Israel.

A general overview of the situation in Yemen is given by an Australian general practitioner, Dr. Peter Underwood, who spent three years ( 1975-77) studying health and culture in Raymah, a rural region in the north. He concludes that:

the physical health of the people of the Yemen is one of the worst in the world. . . . The major causes of the high mortality rate are undernutrition and infectious and parasitic disease. . . . Children and women are the most vulnerable groups. . . . The depredations of infections, particularly gastro-intestinal and respiratory infections, contribute significantly to the poor growth and high mortality of children in Raymah.

( Underwood 1983)

We repeatedly observed the effects of epidemics of measles, pertussis and gastroenteritis . . . on individual child growth.

( Underwood and Margetts 1987a)

An anthropologist who visited a primary health care project in Tihama in 1984 reported fever, vomiting, and diarrhoea as the diseases that kill most children ( Hebert 1984). The project therefore concentrated all its efforts on immunization, oral rehydration therapy for diarrhoea, and treatment of malaria and tuberculosis ( Feilden 1985). In 1975, 30% of admissions to hospitals in Yemen were for parasitic diseases: 84% of healthy subjects had parasites in their stools;

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Changing Health and Changing Culture: The Yemenite Jews in Israel
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgements iv
  • Contents vii
  • Tables and Figures ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Identity 13
  • 3 - Social Life 25
  • 4 - The Physical Environment 51
  • 5 - Plagues and Pestilence 59
  • 6 - Diseases of Civilization 69
  • 7 - The Health of the Community 87
  • 8 - Medical Illness and the Use of Medical Help 105
  • 9 - Conclusion 133
  • Notes 135
  • Terms 153
  • References 155
  • Index 183
  • About the Author *
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