Past Issues

The Promise of Cultural Epidemiology

Mitchell G. Weiss

An emerging field of cultural epidemiology, rooted in the illness explanatory model framework, has developed integrated quantitative and qualitative research methods to harness synergies of interdisciplinary collaboration in psychiatric epidemiology and medical anthropology. The formulation of cultural epidemiology presented here may be understood as the epidemiology and elaboration of illness explanatory models. It has been defined as the study of locally valid representations of illness and their distribution, motivated by aims to enhance the cultural sensitivity and quality of clinical care, health services and other mental health and global health interests. Reflection on the academic, clinical and public health contexts in which concepts and methods of our approach to cultural epidemiology developed, and a review of explanatory model studies of mental health and other health problems provide an opportunity to clarify origins, achievements and challenges for research and anticipated contributions to cultural psychiatry, mental health and global health.
Key Word explanatory models, psychiatric epidemiology, cultural sensitivity, EMIC interview
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