The Role of Medical Anthropology

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This paper seeks to show the inter-relationship of bio- medical professionals such as doctors and nurses in comparison with medical anthropologists and try to show their relevancy in the healthcare system and their collaboration in inter-professionalism. Medical anthropology is an advancing sub-discipline of anthropology. Medical anthropology is intended to provide a framework, which should enable students to identify and analyze social, cultural, behavioural and environmental factors in relation to health and disease/illness in any given society. Medical anthropologists are not medics or professional doctors but they are usually found within the health care system since they provide an insightful role of involving cultural aspects in diagnosis and treatment of diseases in the healthcare system. This is a perfect and unique example of inter-professionalism in the healthcare system.

In all human societies, beliefs and practises relating to illness are central features of cultural life. Although beliefs and practises strongly influence people’s health it is important to note that culture is not the only factor that influences health.

Clinically applied anthropologists are closely involved with healthcare and patient care as members of the healthcare system. They work with physicians, counsellors, lab technicians and many other paramedical personnel. They are solely involved with raising awareness to important cultural factors in health, some of them even practise medicine. This is multi-disciplinary inter-professionalism in itself.

The other medical anthropologists take a macro-approach and focus on political and economic equality which results to poverty and eventually has an effect on disease. An example of such an anthropolo...

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...o regard inter-professionalism in order to improve the health sector in any given society.


Arthur Kleiman (1980), in the book “Patients and Healers in the context of culture” defines cultural systems as a coherent whole of beliefs, norms, arrangements and institutions and patterns of interactions.

Health care systems is the patterns of beliefs about the causes of illnesses ,norms governing the choice and evaluation of treatment and institutions and settings in which the health care takes place as well as power relations that govern the interactions between patients and their healers.

No medical system can be said to be water-tight. For instance, the existence side by side of traditional spiritual healing traditions and western cosmopolitan bio-medical traditions has been reported in such big world cities as Amsterdam.
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