Medical anthropology is a branch of anthropology concerned with the application of anthropological and social science theory and method to better understand health, illness and healing. Some medical anthropologists are trained primarily in anthropology as their main discipline, while others have studied anthropology after training and working as health professionals in medicine, nursing, psychology, or public health. Medical anthropologists conduct research in settings as diverse as rural villages and urban hospitals and clinics. They may teach medical anthropology in university anthropology departments, medical and nursing schools and in community-based settings. Medical anthropologists may find employment with international development organizations, government agencies, and some medical, pharmaceutical and consumer product companies with global operations or ethnically diverse customer base.
Themes and questions in medical anthropology include:
- Development of systems of medical knowledge and health care
- Patient-practitioner relationships and relationships between types of health practitioners
- Integrating alternative and complementary medical systems in culturally diverse environments
- The interactions between biological, environmental and social factors influencing health and illness at both individual and community levels
- The impacts of biomedicine and biomedical technologies
There is a Society for Medical Anthropology, part of the American Anthropological Association. The Society for Medical Anthropology offers an award for outstanding published works in Medical Anthropology, the Rudolph Virchow Award.
- Encyclopedia of medical anthropology : health and illness in the world's cultures, ed. by Carol R. Ember, New York: Springer, 2004
- Janzen, John. 2001. The Social Fabric of Health: An Introduction to Medical Anthropology, McGraw-Hill Publishing Co.
- Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. 1987. The Mindful Body: A Prolegomenon to Future Work in Medical Anthropology. Medical Anthropology Quarterly. March 1987, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 6-41. Posted online on October 22, 2004.
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