198026 Understanding chronic illness and disability in Tanzania: Why oral histories and cultural consonance matter

Monday, November 9, 2009: 12:30 PM

Nicole C. D'Errico , Medical Anthropology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Hidden Bodies, Hidden Lives

The stigma of being born with a chronic illness or disability in Tanzania leads to developmental, psychosocial and educational disadvantage. The common practice of hiding chronically ill or disabled children from the outside world gives the illusion that chronic illnesses and disability are not pervasive problems. Grounded in cultural consonance theory, the purpose of my study was to pinpoint which variables in both the social and built environment contribute to developmental, psychosocial and educational attainment for the sample population, and to what degree. I conducted and video-taped 35 oral history interviews with women living with chronic illness and/or disability in order to analyze how variation in childhood experience corresponded with varying levels of developmental, psychosocial and/or educational success

in later life. I found that differences in early childhood social support had the most direct impact on subsequent development and achievement in life. My findings suggest

that interventions aimed at de-stigmatizing the culturally consonant perceptions of chronic sickness and disability by increasing visibility of non-normative bodies is necessary in order to positively impact developmental, psychosocial and educational attainment among those living with chronic illness or disability in Tanzania. For an intervention to be effective, it must surpass the obvious goal of proving care to those with chronic illness/disability. A successful intervention would have two co-dependent goals: (1) to change the perception of non-normative bodies, by (2) interrupting the circuitous logic that bodies that are hidden do not exist.

Learning Objectives:
Explain why successful interventions aimed at positively affecting health outcomes for those with chronic illness and disability abroad must use effective methods of understanding culturally specific notions about illness and disability. Demonstrate how oral history interviews can guide the process of pinpointing culturally consonant notions of non-normative bodies for the purpose of effective, future intervention design.

Keywords: Disability, Cultural Competency

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I conducted the research being presented and I am working towards an MPH in Epidemiology and a PhD in Medical Anthropology.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.