The Social Roots of Health and Disease

Discipline: Anthropology
Instructor: Paluzzi
Credits: 3

Field Class: Peru Download Syllabus

The problems directly or indirectly correlated with poverty encompass every aspect of daily experience for the billions of people struggling to provide not only basic necessities but the tangible and intangible assets that define a good life for themselves, their families, and their communities. The presence or absence of good health becomes a crucial factor in their ability to achieve that better life. In areas with high burdens of infectious disease, the tragedy of a disease like HIV/AIDS moves beyond individuals and families to ultimately slow or reverse sustainable and equitable economic growth for communities, countries, and entire regions. The scale of the current global epidemics of infectious diseases often leaves otherwise compassionate and engaged individuals asking, “But what can I possibly do?” This course provides an opportunity for students to move beyond the generalizations (both social and epidemiological) that characterize public perceptions and international development discourse to identify the ways in which these generalizing statistics are actually experienced at the community and family levels. We will examine the specific economic, political, cultural, and historical pressures that have shaped the current international health environment with particular attention to the epidemics of HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria in developing nations. Each student will serve on a task force and assume the role of a “consultant” to a specific low-income country’s Ministry of Health. Working with their task force colleagues, they will develop a series of recommendations to be implemented at both the national and community levels to address a specific health issue. The course will draw on the work of critical medical anthropologists, sociologists, and the work of the Task Forces within the United Nations Millennium Project.

Field Class

Country: Peru

This is an opportunity for students to observe one of the most effective community-based healthcare models currently in use. Socios en Salud, Partners In Health, and their other affiliates in Haiti, Boston, and sub-Saharan Africa provide complex healthcare in highly impoverished settings. Integral to their model is the employment of members of the communities in which they work to actively participate in the planning and implementation of local health services. Because of the participation of engaged community members, SES has been able to provide consistent, reliable treatment and support for individuals with a range of communicable, non-communicable and chronic disease. We will be visiting the SES office in Carabayllo, home base for healthcare workers and community educational activities.