For the last several years, I have been guest-editing a special mini-issue of the journal Medical Anthropology Quarterly, our discipine's flagship academic journal. The collection of papers was meant to showcase the innovative work that medical anthropologists are doing around comorbidities--that is, the overlap of multiple disease conditions in a single body. I first became interested in this question when I was conducting doctoral research in India on type 2 diabetes among women. As I describe in the introduction to the special issue, it soon became apparent to me that I was not only going to be studying women with diabetes because the disease very rarely occurs alone. Instead, people with diabetes generally also have another condition(s), such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, depression, or others. Grappling with this complexity led me to seek out others' work on the common overlap of diseases. The special issue arose from there. It includes fantastic contributions from high-profile medical anthropologists who work on a range of chronic, infectious, and mental health conditions. I encourage you to check it out!
Accepting new graduate students interested in food insecurity, mental health, and international work
I am hard at work on a 3-site study of the relationships between food insecurity and mental health in Brazil, India, and Haiti. In the upcoming academic year, I am seeking a new Master's and/or Doctoral student for the University of Alabama's program in biocultural medical anthropology with interests in nutritional anthropology, mental health, global health, and chronic diseases who as part of their training will have the opportunity to assist with data collection on this project in Brazil. Some familiarity with Brazilian Portuguese is a must! Please visit our department's website to learn more about our graduate programs in anthropology and the application process.
My recent article Transactions in Suffering: Mothers, Daughters, and Chronic Disease Comorbidities in New Delhi, India, has been published in Medical Anthropology Quarterly. In brief, this article addresses how mothers with type 2 diabetes and associated comorbidities (in the two case studies presented in the article, these include depression, hypertension, sleep apnea, and obesity) negotiate everyday life with their teenaged or adult daughters. Drawing on Veena Das's work that explores the routinization of suffering in everyday life, this article pays particular attention to the contrasting ways in which the mothers and daughters understand, explain, and respond to diabetes suffering.
This article will be part of the special issue I am guest editing for Medical Anthropology Quarterly on the anthropology of comorbidity. The special issue should be published by the end of the calendar year and includes contributions from Lenore Manderson and Narelle Warren, Emily Mendenhall, Brandon Kohrt and Christine Bourey, Mark Nichter, and Merrill Singer.
My new publication with coauthor Dr. S.V Madhu in American Journal of Public Health looks at anxiety symptoms among women with type 2 diabetes in North India. This is important because a lot of attention has been given to mental health among people with chronic diseases, but "mental health" almost invariably means "depression." Very few researchers have looked at anxiety as a potential problem among people with chronic diseases. This paper is one of the first studies to do so. Here is the abstract:
Type 2 Diabetes and Anxiety Symptoms Among Women in New Delhi, India.Weaver LJ1, Madhu SV1.
AbstractOBJECTIVES: We explored the relationship between mental health and type 2 diabetes among women in New Delhi, India, in 2011.
METHODS: We recruited a convenience sample of 184 diabetic women from 10 public and private clinics. They completed a finger-stick blood test and a questionnaire assessing demographic characteristics, depression and anxiety symptoms, and diabetes-related disabilities restricting their performance of daily tasks. A subsample of 30 women participated in follow-up qualitative interviews at their homes.
RESULTS: More than one quarter of our sample of diabetic women reported high levels of anxiety symptoms, whereas 18% reported high levels of depression symptoms. Anxiety symptoms were patterned according to recency of diabetes diagnosis, with 40% of women diagnosed less than 2 years before their interview reporting high anxiety symptom levels, as opposed to 23% of women diagnosed more than 2 years in the past. Depression and anxiety scores differed with respect to their relationship to recency of diagnosis, number of children, blood glucose level, and functional disabilities restricting performance of daily tasks.
CONCLUSIONS: Screening for anxiety among people with diabetes has been overlooked in the past. Anxiety appears more prevalent than depression, especially during the first 2 years of the disease.
A recent interview with Dr. Jason DeCaro highlights the value of biocultural work and draws on our recent collaboration.
Dr. Weaver and colleagues Craig Hadley (Emory University) and Bonnie Kaiser (Duke University) received an NSF Senior Award for their collaborative project entitled "Food Insecurity and Mental Health in Global Perspective: Social and Nutritional Pathways." The project explores the various pathways linking food insecurity and mental health in their respective research sites in Brazil, Ethiopia, and Haiti. The project will span 3 years, and the award includes some support for undergraduate and graduate student research involvement.
HIDDEN MOTIVATIONS AND GLOSSED JUSTIFICATIONS: PROBLEMS AND PRIORITIES IN BIOCULTURAL FIELD RESEARCH
Sponsored By: Biological Anthropology Section and General Anthropology Division
Thursday, November 19, 2015: 4:00 PM-5:45 PM
113 (Colorado Convention Center)
What could be stranger to experience yet more familiar to to the discipline of anthropology than the experience of fieldwork? Anthropologists have long promoted the value of self-reflexivity as a way to understand our place in the field, but with the postmodern turn in cultural anthropology, this reflexivity became more philosophical than practical in orientation. Recent public conversations about the encroachment of personal and interpersonal issues on fieldwork experiences, such Clancy and colleagues's (2014) highly publicized documentation of sexual harassment in scientific field research, suggest renewed attention in anthropology toward the potentially problematic aspects of field research coincident with the research activities themselves. This session aims to bring biological and biocultural researchers into conversation about the risks and challenges associated with fieldwork. Drawing examples from our original work on mental health among students doing field research, experiences of sexual harassment in scientific research, questions of parenting in the field, and negotiations of racial dynamics between researchers and participants, the papers in this session critically examine fieldwork and its attendant risks. Each presenter will explore at least one of the following: 1) The inherent tension between the exigencies of fieldwork and the needs of self and family during fieldwork; 2) balancing best practices for professional interactions in the field with the imperative to be socially accessible to informants; 3) practical suggestions for nurturance of healthy relationships during fieldwork; 4) structural forces shaping fieldwork priorities, for better or worse, in our academic field; and 5) responsibilities toward the preparedness of students entering the field in terms of theory and method, as well as temperament and emotional wellbeing. This session aims to advance a holistic anthropology by highlighting the common challenges that scholars from all subfields of the discipline may face during their fieldwork. With time for discussion and debate, this session welcomes participation from audience members on practical and philosophical questions about the position of the anthropologist, authority, power, and corruption in the field.
This session would be of particular interest to:
Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students, Those involved in mentoring activities
Organizers: Lesley Jo Weaver (University of Alabama) and Christopher D Lynn (University of Alabama)
Chairs: Lesley Jo Weaver (University of Alabama)
Discussants: Robin G Nelson (Skidmore College)
Disasters in the Field: Learning from the Challenges of Fieldwork Gone Wrong
Gillian H Ice (Ohio U Coll of Osteopathic Med), Darna L Dufour (University of Colorado Boulder) and Nancy J Stevens (Ohio University)
Anthropologists, Kids, and Careers: When Family Is Strange and the Field Familiar
Christopher D Lynn (University of Alabama) and Michaela E Howells (University of North Carolina Wilmington)
Considering the Whole Person As Ethnographer
Eileen P Anderson-Fye (Case Western Reserve University, Department of Anthropology)
Vicarious Trauma: Bearing Witness in the Field
Rebecca J Lester (Washington University in St. Louis, Department of Anthropology)
Raced Encounters in Fieldwork: Reflections and Questions
Lesley Jo Weaver (University of Alabama)
Robin G Nelson (Skidmore College)
Dr. Jo Weaver is a medical anthropologist who specializes in the study of chronic diseases, mental health, and nutrition in India and Brazil.