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Medical anthropology and health education

Cahiers d'études et de recherches francophones / Santé . Volume 1, Number 5, 406-14, Décembre 1991, Option

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Author(s) : Yannick Jaffré

Summary : Health education has often been thought of and described as a means of transmitting a message. This theoritical model leads to describe populations as «target groups» and social practices as «behavior». This vocabulary cannot give a thorough account of the complexity of preventive actions. Their diversity is linked to the transmission modes of the diseases as well as to the diverse connections between medical technics and their possible social acceptibility. This implies to re-think the place of medical anthropology in the curriculum and training in public health. Rather than teaching medical anthropology as a separate entity, it should be cross-sectionnal: its main role is to oppose, for each type of public health approach (e.g. management, epidemiology, etc.), medical technics to popular knowledge, practices and social representations. At the same time, it is important to initiate social sciences research that take into account field constraints and that are usable for public health field workers. The main goal of this approach is not only to give an anthropological knowledge to public health students but to give them the ability to listen, dialogue and understand populations and patients behavior. Consequently, they will be able to better adapt their programs to the social context and therefore to be more efficient.

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