Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cancer is Only For Rich People, Right?

For a class this semester at Brown, one of the assigned texts included Julie Livingston’s Improvising Medicine. One of the discussions in the book revolved around cancer in Botswana that discusses how the world outside of Africa does not usually correlate the specific disease of cancer with Africa. Most people believe that Botswana has not yet undergone the epidemiological transition we see in wealthier states, and that infectious disease, rather than chronic disease, is overwhelmingly the single most important cause of morbidity and mortality. Livingston’s ethnography elucidates, however, how not only does cancer exist in Botswana but it takes on an entirely different form. As opposed to the pre-screening and testing that characterizes cancer in the United States, in Botswana, because hospitals are considered the last possible option for most people, cancer arrives at the hospital as irreversible and the patients essentially cadaveric. The reason I bring this up is because Livingston helped remind me to back away from assumptions regarding global health. I feel like it can be easy at times, especially because we as GlobeMed at Brown often focus on AIDS and HIV, to forget that health problems that people around the world actually suffer from are not always what we assume and expect them to be. At the same time, we also have to be wary of assuming that certain diseases and conditions have universally common lived-experiences and etiologies. The book as a whole was an eye-opening and interesting read for anyone interested!


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