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Re-directing Health-seeking Behavior Studies on Malaria and Vulnerability

As mentioned last week on our blog, April 25th was World Malaria Day. AAA recognized this important day with a special virtual issue of Medical Anthropology Quarterly. This special edition re-released articles which demonstrate ways that ethnography and human behavior studies help to change care management and public health policy.

Approximately half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria, particularly those living in lower-income countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO calculates that every 30 seconds a child dies of malaria. By joining the global movement to roll back these staggering statics on malaria, anthropologists serve as catalyst around the world to research the medical and cultural impacts of this disease and share their findings to help count malaria out.

Over the coming weeks, each article will be featured here on the AAA blog. Here is the first of seven highlighted articles:

The Straw that Breaks the Camel’s Back: Re-directing Health-seeking Behavior Studies on Malaria and Vulnerability
Joan Muela-Ribera.
Medical Anthropology Quarterly, March 2011

In the wake of the Millennium Development Goals, the focus on vulnerability and access to care has increasingly gained ground in the malaria social science literature. However, little emphasis has been given to the cumulative processes of vulnerability. In this article, we draw on ethnographic data, in particular on case studies, gathered in southeastern Tanzania in the 1990s and reexamine them in the context of vulnerability. We analyze the underpinnings of the cumulative dimension of vulnerability at three levels: (1) structural, that is, elements that determine access to material and social resources; (2) agent driven, that is, the consequences of coping strategies that enhance vulnerability; and (3) conjunctural, that is, periods characterized by the confluence of adverse circumstances. We argue that the analysis of cumulative processes of vulnerability paints a more comprehensive picture of people’s struggle for health. This opens up a more systemic and dynamic perspective on access to care for disadvantaged populations.

Read the entire article here.

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