Medical Anthropology


Medical anthropology is a very important subfield that works within anthropology that depends on all the 4 branches of anthropology i.e. Physical, Socio-Cultural, Linguistic and Archaeology. It involves the study of how health and illness are shaped, experienced, and understood for the betterment of mankind.

It is the study of health and healing from an anthropological perspective.

This subfield helps to understand those factors which influence the health and well being of man, the experience and distribution of illness among the society, the prevention and treatment of sickness through various medical methods, healing processes, the social relations of therapy management, and therefore the cultural importance and utilization of assorted medical systems. The Social system cannot be separated from the cultural system.

Medical Anthropology ( photo- Society for Medical Anthropology)

Medical anthropology gaining significance in day to day life. Most of the students are getting interested in such field. It has a wider scope. In Medical anthropology, ethnographic and comparative methods for the study is used.

Work of Medical Anthropologists:

  • Relates the natural sciences to the humanities
  • Find the consequences of ecological adaptation and maladaptation
  • Distribution of diseases and their effects on health
  • Various methods available for the treatment
  • Awareness programme requirement
  • Examination of Healthcare provisions
  • Local interpretations of the bodily process
  • A risk involving the disease
  • Historical conditions of the healthcare practices
  • Differential use and availability of government healthcare system

A recent example of the kind of study in which medical anthropologists may involve themselves is the study of the impact of the pandemic Covid19 on society. They can search for the questions like how people get emotionally affected, how they get unstable to commit suicide, how they are managing themselves to be motivated all the time, how they are managing their finances etc.

They build a relationship with other scholars outside anthropology for a better understanding of the issue involved. They are also involved in research partnerships with related disciplines such as public health, medical sociology, economics, geography, ecology, and the health sciences. They also involve the public in their research work.

They Encourage individuals to take responsibility and lead a healthier lifestyle to improve their quality of life. The Community approach involving all levels of government, non-government organizations.


At present, medical anthropology is trying to maintain its cultural interest in the concept of knowledge, meaning and politics as the broader aspect of anthropology without becoming simply an ‘applied’ sub-discipline. Students who have studied medical anthropology as their subject have scope for careers in domestic and international aid and social services, and health professions such as nursing and also the clinical field.

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