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A Medical Anthropological Perspective on the Impact of Ebola on Maternal Health

Audrey Kim


This paper aims to highlight the importance of using a medical anthropological analysis to understand the effects of the intersection of acute crises on top of chronic health problems in relation to maternal mortality and the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak. By using a medical anthropological analysis to view the Ebola virus disease as a whole and the devastating effects of the outbreak on maternal health, it shifts perspective and focuses on the way a crisis exacerbates existing chronic health care issues. First, the paper discusses how various factors of West Africa’s fragile health infrastructure led to the prolonging of outbreak control and general distrust in the healthcare system. The lack of cultural competency in healthcare facilities leads to the next section which lays a framework of various anthropological terms that are used to foster a more self-aware and conscious mindset to evaluating human experiences. Lastly, I use the remaining factors of stigma and social perceptions of the Ebola virus in conjunction with structural violence to emphasize the importance of considering contextual factors to maintain an effective healthcare system. The strong focus on the Ebola outbreak crisis itself and the biology of the disease discounts the consequences on maternal healthcare. These distinct factors build on my argument of how West Africa’s lack of cultural competency and quality healthcare services prompted increased anxieties about the outbreak and distrust in the healthcare system—reinforcing systematic barriers to prevent mothers from receiving quality care.

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