Community Health and Preventive Medicine
Social and Cultural Anthropology
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AbstractUnderstanding how individuals and institutions negotiate illness and construct ideas about disease is important to public health efforts across the globe. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa suffer from a variety of health problems that many regions of the world have long since eradicated. Economic hardship, combined with high rates of communicable diseases, food poverty, lack of sanitation, and poor water quality make countries in sub-Saharan Africa some of the poorest and sickest in the world. Tanzania is a prime example. The purpose of this study was to explore how people in one rural, Tanzanian village construct ideas about disease – its symptoms, causes, and treatments – in relation to four independent variables: age, gender, education level, and religion. Data was collected using semi-structured interviews with sixty non-randomly selected residents of Mayo Village during the month of April 2009 and analyzed using descriptive statistics. For my study participants, disease in Mayo Village reflected the hard conditions of rural living, from daily physical labor to lack of access to medical services. Results also indicated that gender, age, education, and religion shape perceptions of disease in different ways. This study has important implications for future public health efforts in Mayo.