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Free Content Who needs ‘pukka anthropologists'? A study of the perceptions of the use of anthropology in tropical public health research

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Over the past 50 years, there have been considerable changes both in how medical anthropologists view their relationship to topical public health and in how tropical public health professionals view the role of anthropologists. In particular, in recent decades critical currents have emerged from an anthropology of medicine, calling for an examination of biomedicine and its conceptualisation of public health. There are parallel debates in public health about a narrow disease-focused or broader socio-cultural approach to improving population health. Based on a review of the literature and a qualitative study of the views of public health professionals and anthropologists working in tropical public health, the data presented in this paper suggest that public health professionals remain unaware of many of the contributions anthropology could make to tropical public health theory and practice. However, the objectives of a critical social science are not dissimilar to those of the broader concept of public health. We suggest that there are grounds for optimism. For those of us concerned not just with disease but also with inequities in health, the challenge is to work towards a critical tropical public health which draws as much from social science as from biomedicine, in theory and practice.
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Keywords: anthropology; inequities in health; tropical public health

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 August 2006

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