Medical Anthropology: Where the study of a pandemic and the BLM movement align
As humanity is faced with increasing global emergencies, now more than ever, we must all contribute to solutions: for good, and for the good of all people. In the Wits Impacts For Good podcast series, Eusebius McKaiser engages in conversation with Wits Originators, forward-thinking researchers from Wits University, interrogating problems and seeking robust and impactful solutions, backed by leading research.
Meet Lenore Manderson — the Wits professor whose work in medical anthropology, social history and public health seeks to address the complex social responses to disease, inequality and social injustices facing humankind in the Black Lives Matter era.
Growing up with a trained nurse for a mother, Lenore Manderson was often nudged in the direction of medicine. As a little girl, all Lenore knew was that she wanted to do what was important and, medical anthropology was the one career that linked her interests in social life with matters of ill health.
Forty years later — Professor Lenore Manderson is internationally recognised in the field of medical anthropology, exploring questions around social exclusion and marginalisation to find answers to problems of health and disease inequalities, and lack of access to care.
With ongoing conversations around the novel coronavirus and social activism like the Black Lives Matter movement – what role do anthropologists play in understanding the true impact of the crises on the most vulnerable, marginalised in society?
As people across the globe continue to lend their voices in protest against the injustices that befall black communities in the United States — the rising death toll from the coronavirus pandemic in these vulnerable and marginalised communities demonstrate the urgent need for radical transformation.
To put the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on black people in context: Findings from earlier data of the Covid-19 crisis (segmented into race categories) revealed that black people are more than four times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white people, on a global scale.
When taking into account the long history of inequalities in black communities, the findings reaffirm what medical anthropologists' studies have shown about racial fault lines in relation to access to healthcare — an inequality that predates the pandemic.
The people who are most vulnerable anywhere in the world are people who are poor and do not have the luxury of being able to isolate in the same way, who are frustrated, who have limited access to the resources to help them get through an incredibly difficult time.Lenore Manderson, Professor — University of the Witwatersrand
Aside from rising up against the legacy of structural racism and police brutality — what the Black Lives Matters movement is highlighting in a time of Covid-19 is the glaring disparities that exist in the world.
As a medical anthropologist, Professor Lenore Manderson's impactful research and analysis around the social determinants of health and disease helps us make sense of the world we're living in and, could possibly bring us a little bit closer to a solution.
If we weren't having a discussion about racism now, then when would we ever have it?Lenore Manderson, Professor — University of the Witwatersrand
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