Accepted Paper:

Potential contribution of anthropology to global health: cases of ethnomedical practice and health intervention in northern Ethiopia  


Ken Masuda (Nagasaki University)

Paper short abstract:

This study will discuss potential contributions of anthropology to global health. Our ethnographic research of a ethnomedicine in northern Ethiopia indicate that the research findings are fed back upon medical practitioners and have ‘relativizing effect’ on their views about health promotion.

Paper long abstract:

Anthropologists are more or less "useless" in global health. It is a social science that belongs to non-medical sector and does not perform laboratory experiments. Its basic research methods, participant observation and kinds of interviews, are qualitative, which provide data and analysis in non-measurable formulation. Anthropology still makes its low presence in health and medical sector.

​This study attempts to find the ways anthropological approaches contribute to global health projects such as infectious disease control, community health, primary health promotion and maternal health improvement. It will examine the impact of an anthropological research on a disease surveillance project in northern Ethiopia. Two postgraduate students of Nagasaki University are engaged in the research aiming primarily to explore 1) a transitional phase from "traditional" medicine to biomedicine by focusing on folk etiology of "milk-teeth diarrhea", and 2) home birth practices in rural Ethiopia, which are prevalent in spite of worldwide campaigns for facility-based delivery, by carrying out in-depth case studies.

​The results of research are met by mixed responses. On the one hand, qualitative and ethnographic descriptions concerning socio-cultural factors are given secondary importance while statistical and epidemiological data are first. On the other hand, our ethnographic methods, qualitative as well as quantitative, have turned to have relativizing effect upon the view of health promotion of organizers and medical practitioners.

Panel P062
Biomedicine in Africa: changes in knowledge, practice, and sociality