The Cultural Anthropological Contribution to Communicable Disease Epidemiology

Cultural anthropology has made four primary contributions to our epidemiologist led research group in Bangladesh. First, cultural anthropology articulates the conflict between the biomedical paradigm and the cultural understanding of target communities, affecting project choice and framing. Second, anthropologists help epidemiologists construct questions that are meaningful to respondents, while encouraging epidemiologists to frame their understanding of public health problems within a broader context of local choice; local constraints; and social, political, and cultural factors. Third, anthropologists communicate the voice of the community to the public health team in a way that biomedical scientists can understand. Fourth, anthropologists leverage their understanding of low-income communities to generate practical suggestions for public health interventions. Indeed, the contributions that anthropology can make to the public health enterprise are so substantial that epidemiologists would be shortsighted not to engage in them. A number of anthropologists have articulated benefits and barriers to collaboration between epidemiology and anthropology (Inhorn, 1995; Trostle, 2005). The objective of this chapter is to contribute to the smaller literature from epidemiologists on these issues (Behague et al., 2008; Porter, 2006) and explain how cultural anthropology has helped this communicable disease epidemiologist lead a multidisciplinary research group in Bangladesh.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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