Concepts from Medical Anthropology for Clinicians

Katherine K Parry


This article introduces the discipline of medical anthropology and presents concepts that may be useful for physical therapy clinicians. The terms culture and cultural orientations of the United States are defined, and examples of cultural conflict in patient care are given. I explain the differences between emic and etic viewpoints and analyze this distinction in relation to health care in the United States and especially the separation of the concept of disease and illness. Anthropological tools are presented for restructuring encounters between clinicians and patients to make clinicians more culturally sensitive.

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  • Received April 14, 1983.
  • Accepted January 2, 1984.