Susan Walker


Health promotion and intervention programs are biological, cultural, social and political undertakings. Frequently, they are based on epidemiological research, and do not work because they rely solely on quantitative measurements of risk. While this approach can demonstrate cause and effect between risk factors and disease, it lacks the understanding of lay rationality, and the social, political, and economic influences which make individuals vulnerable to disease - a vital component to the development of successful interventions. It is in this area that medical anthropology can make a critical difference to health intervention planning, with its qualitative methodology and theoretical perspectives. This paper reviews the theoretical debate currently taking place within the discipline, and proposes an applied critical medical anthropology approach which engages, rather than challenges the system, and responds to the needs of intervention issues. By collaborating with colleagues in other areas of health, and forming closer alliances, medical anthropology can target a challenging, exciting and critical focus for praxis, and make important contributions to health intervention planning.