Intra-household allocation of food and health care: current findings and understandings--introduction

Soc Sci Med. 1997 Jun;44(11):1675-84. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(96)00370-x.


This work offers an anthropological analysis of intra-household processes underlying gender- and age-specific differences in individual nutritional and health care allocations and outcomes in particular cultures. Based on recent ethnographic studies in India, Nepal, Madagascar, Mexico, and Peru, correspondences are analyzed between local cultural ("emic") and scientist-policy maker practitioner ("etic") understandings of nutrition, health, and human development, and the relative "values" of females, males, and children of different ages. The data and analyses clarify specific epidemiological and demographic findings on age and gender bias in nutrition and health and highlight the multiple cultural, economic, and biological factors that contribute to gender- or age-based discrimination or neglect. Recent advances in nutrition policy have argued for a broader concept of nutritional security, one that incorporates both food quantity and quality, and of nutrition as "food, health and care" (International Conference on Nutrition, World Declaration and Plan of Action for Nutrition, FAO/WHO, Rome, 1992). These ethnographic findings; lend strong support for such broader nutrition concepts and associated nutrition policies. The studies also suggest ways in which anthropological questions, methods, and data and community-based research can help predict or identify the nutritionally vulnerable within households and help other social and medical scientists design more effective interventions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Anthropology, Cultural
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Child
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Family Health / ethnology*
  • Feeding Behavior / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India
  • Madagascar
  • Male
  • Mexico
  • Nepal
  • Peru
  • Prejudice*
  • Sex*
  • Social Values