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Mixing Anthropology with Medicine: Various Implications of Cultural Influence on Medical Practice

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National Institutes of Health
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  1. In Chapter 8, Horacio Fabrega delineates a critical medical anthropological review of biomedical psychiatric practices
  2. Since Fabrega offers a medical anthropological perspective, he incorporates some overarching themes of culture and medicine
  3. Chapter 9 presents an argument about the use of a double standard when evaluating Western and non-Western medical treatments
  4. In Chapter 10, Ronald Frankenberg delineates the benefits of relating anthropology to the field of epidemiology
  5. All three chapters offered concrete and valid arguments regarding the role of anthropology in medical practice

The implicit belief of medical anthropologists is that culture does have an impact on the structure, realities, and perceptions of medical practice. Medicine is distinctive to specific cultures, and regardless of whether or not such individualized practices fall within the realm of Western biomedicine, they must be respected as valid and authoritative systems for the given society. As an anthropologist, it is much easier to separate our traditions of medical practice from those being studied or in question. Yet from a medical practitioner's perspective, the practices that their knowledge is founded in and driven by often create conflict when applied to a highly individualized population of differing beliefs. The benefits of incorporating anthropological perspectives in medical practice are potentially immense, and in Chapters 8, 9, and 10, Lindenbaum and Lock offer three arguments that support this relationship.

[...] The combination of the three chapters gives precedence for anthropology, especially when applied to modern (and various) medical networks. Fabrega's solidarity, Frankenberg's efficacy, and Lewis's innovativeness offer new perspectives reinforcing the relationship between anthropology and medicine. Medical anthropology, whether interpretive, critical, or other variations, can affect and aid medical practice from an individual to a completely global level. Using culture as a component in evaluating and developing medical systems will increase understanding and potentially assist in healthcare delivery. Although medical anthropology is based in social science, its application to medicine is undoubtedly useful and in some instances necessary. [...]


[...] Yet Lewis follows his question not with an assertion to raise the standards of other medical systems, but instead to view all medical systems on a more objective and equal basis. Lewis begins by stating that Western biomedicine is neither complete nor perfect, and that much of the authority and strength we hold to it comes from those we see and the transmission of our culture. In other words, we have such great faith in Western medicine simply because it is our system. [...]

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