Accepted paper:

Mbya Guarani child biographies: Exploring the need for local adaptations to Misiones nutritional health programme


Coll Hutchison (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)

Paper short abstract:

Using Mbya Guarani child ‘biographies’, this paper explores the biases, paradoxes and confusion that arise when they are diagnosed as ‘underweight’. It illustrates how anthropology can potentially contribute to the adaptation of the local nutritional health programme to Mbya child needs.

Paper long abstract:

This paper compares and contrasts a series of 'biographies' of Mbya Guarani children who are diagnosed as 'underweight' and registered in a Misiones nutritional programme (Hambre Cero), in Misiones, Argentina. The biographies are composed from multiple and often contradictory accounts - including Mbya Guarani parents, community health workers, doctors and where possible, children themselves - that centre on the children's lives as public health-narratives. In doing so, it explores the public nature of Mbya Guarani children's health in their community, as well as being objects of a provincial Public Health programme. Consequently, it takes the logic of the diagnoses, the anthropometric indicators and the accompanying interventions, as the central axes to undertake this analysis. It highlights the diffuse nature of Mbya children's health, showing how 'biographies', can jointly elucidate biases and paradoxes, where local contexts and histories are ignored, and potentially contribute to the adaption of the provincial Public Health programme to local needs.

panel LD06
Anthropologies in and of public health in the 21st century