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Health, Risk, and Adversity

Health, Risk, and Adversity

Catherine Panter-Brick
Agustín Fuentes
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 310
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  • Book Info
    Health, Risk, and Adversity
    Book Description:

    Research on health involves evaluating the disparities that are systematically associated with the experience of risk, including genetic and physiological variation, environmental exposure to poor nutrition and disease, and social marginalization. This volume provides a unique perspective - a comparative approach to the analysis of health disparities and human adaptability - and specifically focuses on the pathways that lead to unequal health outcomes. From an explicitly anthropological perspective situated in the practice and theory of biosocial studies, this book combines theoretical rigor with more applied and practice-oriented approaches and critically examines infectious and chronic diseases, reproduction, and nutrition.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-871-3
    Subjects: Anthropology, Public Health, Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. Lists of Tables
    (pp. x-xi)
  5. List of Boxes
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. FOREWORD Framing Health, Risk, and Adversity
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Alan Goodman

    After completing a large-scale review of worldwide variation, James Tanner, the preeminent British expert in human growth and development, surmised that mean adult heights invariably increase with greater socioeconomic status. This association, he stated, is consistent for all historical periods and in many dozens of countries around the globe. To say it more grandly still, everywhere that Tanner looked, and he looked in a remarkably large and varied number of places, socioeconomic status was indelibly written into and onto the body.

    During the 1960s, when Tanner first summarized his findings, the links between socioeconomic conditions and biological outcomes were less...

  7. INTRODUCTION Health, Risk, and Adversity: A Contextual View from Anthropology
    (pp. 1-10)
    Catherine Panter-Brick and Agustín Fuentes

    Both anthropology and public health have focused extensively on the question ofwhosuffers from poor health outcomes. Both fields are still developing ways to examinewhyandhowhealth differentials emerge over the lifetime of individuals. This book aims to enhance understanding of outcomes and processes that govern relationships between health, risk, and adversity—to facilitate linkages between multiple levels of inquiry, intowhoorwhatbrings about health disparities, as well as intohow,when, andwhydifferential health outcomes occur.

    As editors, our goal is to relate the risks of poor health to contexts of adversity, defined...


    • Understanding Health: Past and Present
      (pp. 13-25)
      Charlotte Roberts

      As a person who does not research health in living populations, I find that this book not only provides fascinating and incredibly useful insights into living populations—that is, how we might approach evaluating how and why people get sick—but also shows how relevant medical and biological anthropology are to our understanding of the origin and evolution of disease over long periods of time. Palaeopathology, biological anthropology, and medical anthropology complement each other nicely; while palaeopathology can provide a window on disease evolution over long periods of time and highlight the main reasons for the appearance of specific diseases...

    • 1 Health Consequences of Social and Ecological Adversity Among Indigenous Siberian Populations: Biocultural and Evolutionary Interactions
      (pp. 26-51)
      William R. Leonard, J. Josh Snodgrass and Mark V. Sorensen

      In studying human health and well-being, biological anthropologists differ from most biomedical scientists in that we draw explicitly on both evolutionary and biocultural models (Stinson et al. 2000). As anthropologists we are interested in understanding the origin and nature of biological variation as well as the proximate social, political, and economic determinants of variation in human health. Thus, we recognize that human biological variation in health is shaped by adaptive responses to stress and adversity in our evolutionary past, as well as by ongoing social and ecological challenges to our health in the modern world.

      Increasing rates of obesity and...

    • 2 A Multidisciplinary Approach to Understanding the Risk and Context of Emerging Primate-Borne Zoonoses
      (pp. 52-77)
      Lisa Jones-Engel and Gregory Engel

      Infectious diseases have exerted a powerful influence on the evolution and development of human societies. Over the millennia, people have struggled to understand the ravages of pandemics, often in religious terms, attributing mass illness and death to wrathful deities or dissatisfied spirits (see Herring, Chapter 3). In the past two centuries, scientists have been able to show (most of the) immediate culprits to be microorganisms; yet too often we find ourselves in the position of reacting to epidemics, while insufficient resources have been used to proactively seek out new, heretofore unrecognized threats.

      Animal reservoirs in particular have been an important...

    • 3 Viral Panic, Vulnerability, and the Next Pandemic
      (pp. 78-98)
      Ann Herring

      The problem of infectious disease in human societies, past and present, is an important site for anthropological theorizing because it sits at the juncture between the microcosmos, evolution, and human behavior. It forms a natural bridge between the nature/culture divide. In this essay, I discuss the intersection between the social and biological worlds through a consideration of the prospect of an avian influenza pandemic in the twenty-first century and its connections, real and constructed, to the 1918 influenza pandemic.

      More specifically, I explore a narrative line that is embedded in the discourse on avian influenza. During the course of any...


    • Thinking about Health through Time and across Generations
      (pp. 101-107)
      Darna L. Dufour

      The three chapters in this section focus on issues of health and risk through time and across generations. Ellison and Jasienska provide a theoretically oriented chapter that uses issues related to reproductive health as examples. Núñez-de-la-Mora and Bentley present a case study of migration and changes in risk factors for breast cancer in two generations of migrants. Sellen presents a review of a select number of cases of child growth in sub-Saharan Africa and an analysis of child growth as a measure of health. All three chapters provide important insights on how long-term health outcomes are shaped by life histories...

    • 4 Adaptation, Health, and the Temporal Domain of Human Reproductive Physiology
      (pp. 108-128)
      Peter T. Ellison and Grazyna Jasienska

      Two of the most familiar concepts in human biology are also two of the most problematic: health and adaptation. Health is such a familiar concept that it often goes undefined, even in the context of research, or the definition is at best implicit. Often health is treated as a dichotomous variable, the complement of disease. At other times health is treated as if it were a continuous, or at least a graded variable, allowing for states of “better” or “worse” health. The concept of adaptation has been difficult ever since Darwin’s day (Browne 2002). Theoretical definitions that avoid tautology are...

    • 5 Changes in Risk Factors for Breast Cancer in Migrant Women: An Intergenerational Comparison Among Bangladeshis in the United Kingdom
      (pp. 129-149)
      Alejandra Núñez-de la Mora and Gillian R. Bentley

      Since the pioneer work by Boas a century ago (1912), migrant studies have been used as natural experimental models to assess the impact of diverse environments (biological and social) on human plasticity (Lasker 1995, 1969; Lasker and Mascie-Taylor 1988) (see the Box below). Such studies have compared migrants to sedentees (nonmigrants) with the aim of understanding how phenotypic, developmental, demographic, and behavioral patterns change after migration, as well as identifying factors in the new environment responsible for those changes.

      Migration studies have aided research on the effects of urbanization, modernization, and westernization, in particular in the context of the nutritional...

    • 6 Family Structure and Child Growth in sub-Saharan Africa: Assessing “Hidden Risk”
      (pp. 150-172)
      Daniel W. Sellen

      Do social relations within families affect the health of individuals? Despite some influential theoretical work on the household production of health over a decade ago (Berman, Kendall, and Bhattacharyya 1994; Harkness and Super 1994), there is little published evidence for links between social processes of family formation (such as marriage practices) and physical health indicators (such as child growth). A paucity of studies showing such links does not mean that they do not exist, however. It simply means that relationships between family structure and health have not been widely reported. This, in turn, may be because such relationships have not...


    • Explaining Health Inequalities
      (pp. 175-184)
      William W. Dressler

      The three chapters in this section, by Keith Godfrey and Mark Hanson, Thom Mc-Dade, and Lorena Madrigal and her associates, address a set of related topics that converge on a single major issue in the study of adult chronic disease: how do we understand the social and cultural foundations of health inequalities?

      The termhealth inequalitiesis itself a controversial one. In the United States, the termhealth disparitiesis used. Why that is the case is obscure, but there is some evidence that Americans, especially some members of the public health establishment, are uncomfortable with the notion that inequality...

    • 7 The Developmental Origins of Health and Disease
      (pp. 185-208)
      Keith Godfrey and Mark Hanson

      The “developmental origins” hypothesis states that adult coronary heart disease and the associated disorders hypertension and type 2 diabetes, originate through developmental plastic responses to an adverse early environment.

      Clinical and epidemiological research has established that people who were smaller at birth and had poor growth in infancy have increased rates of coronary heart disease, raised blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, particularly if their restricted fetal and infant growth was followed by increased childhood weight gain. There is also evidence that both premature birth and overt fetal growth restriction, not just size at birth, are associated with adverse long-term...

    • 8 Beyond the Gradient: An Integrative Anthropological Perspective on Social Stratification, Stress, and Health
      (pp. 209-235)
      Thomas McDade

      Socioeconomic deprivation is a fundamental form of adversity that leads to poor health by almost any measure. Indeed, socioeconomic status (SES) is among the most powerful predictors of health, yet it also among the least well understood. The termshealth disparities(preferred in the US) andhealth inequalities(preferred in the UK) refer to the uneven population distribution of morbidity and mortality, with a particular emphasis on the disproportionate burden of disease endured by particular racial/ethnic groups and those at lower levels of SES. African-Americans, for example, suffer from cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, breast cancer, infant mortality, and total mortality...

    • 9 The Slavery Hypothesis: An Evaluation of a Genetic-Deterministic Explanation for Hypertension Prevalence Rate Inequalities
      (pp. 236-255)
      Lorena Madrigal, Mwenza Blell, Ernesto Ruiz and Flory Otárola-Durán

      With its holistic, evolutionary and cross-cultural approaches, anthropology has much to add to the study of human diversity and disease expression. Anthropological perspectives aid in the study of human disease by considering the evolutionary origin, the social production, and the cross-cultural manifestation of ill health.

      In the case of hypertension, anthropology contributes to an understanding of variation across groups relevant to clinical practice. High prevalence rates are frequently explained as resulting from the genetic makeup of certain ethnic groups. With its broad knowledge of both genetic and cultural variation, anthropology can evaluate this proposition, by examining the validity of genetic...

  11. CONCLUSION Adversity, Risk, and Health: A View from Public Health
    (pp. 256-272)
    Martin White

    This chapter aims to assess critically the chapters in this volume and to highlight some insights for anthropology from public health, andvice versa.The chapter is not intended to stand alone but rather to draw together the wide-ranging arguments of preceding chapters by means of a commentary from a public health perspective.

    It is always enlightening to examine familiar territory from a different perspective. You perceive familiar things in a different way and see things that you have not seen before. And your understanding of the world changes as you develop a new conceptual map. For me, as an...

  12. Contributors
    (pp. 273-277)
  13. Glossary
    (pp. 278-286)
  14. Index
    (pp. 287-294)