Introduction

From its earliest days, anthropology has included research regarding health. However, it is only within the past quarter-century that inquiry in this area has been systematized and synthesized into the area of specialization known (but not unequivocally so) as "medical anthropology". After discussing the concept "health," we review the history of medical anthropology's emergence. The historical divide between "applied" and "theoretical" medical anthropology is discussed. Our focus then turns specifically to cross-cultural or ethnological health research. Key conceptual models for understanding health-seeking and health systems cross-culturally will be described. We then contrast the explicitly comparative cross-cultural perspective with contemporary ethnography, where single cultures are generally the focus of inquiry, and we discuss the related debate over comparative research. Finally, popular research topic areas are reviewed.

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