Anthropology and Public Health: The Role Culture Plays in Epidemics

Open Access
Bader, Leah Rose
Area of Honors:
Interdisciplinary in Anthropology and Health Policy and Administration
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Margaret Winchester, Thesis Supervisor
  • Timothy Ryan, Honors Advisor
  • Caprice A Knapp, Honors Advisor
  • Medical Anthropology
  • Anthropology
  • Epidemics
  • Global Health
During an epidemic, there are many factors that can inhibit or facilitate the spread of disease and the severity of the epidemic beyond biomedical responses, including structural and social considerations. This paper will be an interdisciplinary work between the areas of anthropology and public health and will explore the history of these two disciplines working together, including theoretical and methodological frameworks utilizing key concepts from both areas of study, as well as the development of the subfield of medical anthropology and the tools used to investigate disease like outbreak ethnography. In addition, the relationship between culture and epidemics will be analyzed, culminating in the examination of the use of anthropological techniques and their results throughout the history of Ebola virus disease outbreaks in central and western Africa. By utilizing Ebola outbreaks starting in 1976 up till the most recent outbreak of 2014, this paper will demonstrate how culture can play a crucial role in disease epidemiology and controlling infectious disease.