Introduction

Health outcomes are inextricably linked to poverty (Farmer, Conners, & Simmons, 1996), and as a result anthropologists studying urban populations have devoted considerable attention to understanding and representing the health conditions of the urban poor. Anthropological portrayals of the poor have altered over time. Despite earlier social science research documenting the disturbing health outcomes among the urban poor (e.g., Engels, 1892; Liebow, 1967; Spradley, 1970), there was relatively little ethnographic research that integrated theory from both urban and medical anthropology prior to the 1980s (Foster & Kemper, 1996). Even then, wary of misrepresenting the poor through reductionist stereotypes, anthropologists have often evaded focused analysis of urban poverty (Bourgois, 1995). The intent of this entry is to both summarize the health challenges faced by people living in urban poverty and briefly trace theoretical approaches to the urban poor.

Anthropologists have variously referred to poor urban areas as "ghettos" (e.g., Hannerz, 1969) "urban slums" (Whyte, 1943), "squatter settlements" (Glasser, 1994), or "inner-cities" (Singer, 1994; Wallace et al., 1994). The nuanced meaning of each of the above terms, and the appropriateness of each to describe poor urban populations, has been previously discussed and debated (Hannerz, 1969, 1980), and will not be covered here. For the purposes of this entry, I will use the term used to describe the locale by the authors at the time of their research, with the caveat that each term clearly reflects the historical and political setting of the research. For lack of a better general term, I will use "urban poor" to refer to those most often vulnerable to disease in urban settings.1 The review will also look at what anthropology has brought to the study of the health of the urban poor, and what it can potentially contribute in the future. Physical, cultural, and medical anthropologists have all contributed to aspects of understanding how the processes of urbanization, industrialization, and globalization affect health among the poor worldwide. Because of shared topics of research and approaches to understanding health, there is an obvious overlap between epidemiological, medical anthropological, and public health studies on health among the urban poor. If relevant to the topic, formative work in fields other than anthropology is noted.

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