Anthropological research perspectives on health problems in developing countries

Soc Sci Med. 1984;18(10):847-54. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(84)90153-9.


Anthropological research on health problems in developing countries during the past 30 years, and present/future research on the same topic, are considered in the light of (a) the changing health picture in developing countries and (b) the major health enterprises of developing countries and participating multilateral and bilateral agencies. The author suggests that modern medicine in recent years has become the first choice of most traditional peoples most of the time. It is because the supply of modern health care cannot keep up with the demand that the Primary Health Care (PHC) movement has arisen. With respect to the use of traditional curers in PHC it is pointed out that (a) they are not replacing themselves, (b) many have become ' neotraditional curers ' making extensive use of modern drugs and (c) spiritualist curing is replacing much traditional medicine. The question is, then, when we advocate the use of 'traditional curers ' in PHC programs, what exactly are we proposing? All of the above? Some of the above? Traditional healers only, strictly defined? The author also suggests that some early anthropological stereotypes of health behavior need revision, particularly those having to do with effective doctor-patient interaction. Finally, if anthropologists are effectively to explore the sociocultural aspects of health and illness, they must study health care delivery systems as intensively as community/patient behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Anthropology*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Health Services, Indigenous*
  • Medicine, Traditional*
  • Primary Health Care
  • Research