Dr. Adia Benton: The West African Ebola Outbreak

August 25, 2014

This week Point Of Inquiry welcomes Dr. Adia Benton, a professor of medical anthropology at Brown University. She joins host Lindsay Beyerstein to talk about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Medical anthropologists bring a unique expertise to epidemics because they study both the physiology of illness and the cultural factors that influence its transmission. That’s why the World Health Organization has deployed med anthros to combat prior Ebloa outbreaks. They ask questions like: “How do people think a disease is spread?,” “What role do traditional healers play in this culture?,” and “Do people trust Western medicine?” The answers can be used to craft more effective public health messages.

These are urgent questions for the current Ebola outbreak, where some are resisting quarantine, attacking hospitals, and blaming the outbreak on doctors and nurses. In a crisis, culturally competent care can be a matter of life and death.

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