Anthropologists Role in a Global Health Emergency

Recently all we listen and read about in social medias is the Ebola, an epidemic that has the entire world on panic due to how easily it has been spreading between individuals and its high mortality rate. The anthropologist, Crystal Biruk, begins her article by questioning, “What is the role of the medical anthropologist in a global health emergency?” Biruk talks about how the disease not only has to do with science and medicine, but also with the individual’s culture, government, and facilities.

The reading touches various points like: the “ignorance” of the Africans towards the disease, their approach with Ebola, traditions, and history. These topics are closely studied by anthropologists, which help on the proper approach health workers should have with the infected people. Biruk explains ideas that should be taken into consideration when studying the Africans affected by Ebola.

Many doctors and researchers have “attacked” West Africa to find the cure, conduct researches on how it began, and find ways to control it. Ebola has been going on for years, but now there’s an epidemic and health workers have intervened. Outsiders should consider the individual’s cultures and beliefs, which influence how they think and manage illnesses. Anthropologists play a big role in this because they study the humankind. When researchers and health workers manage the disease they have to consider the traditions of the individuals and the history there is between Africans and outsiders. The negative approach Africans have had with outsiders has been influenced by the historical context. Africans were taken by outsiders to work as slaves; in addition, they have been previously used for experiments and testing studies. Also, Third World countries don’t have the same technology and resources the new world has; they have few hospitals, doctors, and nurses.

The cure for the Ebola not only has to do with the health workers but with anthropologists. Anthropologist have another perspective and view individuals not only as someone they have to cure but also study their ways of being, interactions, traditions, and beliefs.


Ebola and emergency anthropology: The view from the “global health slot”