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Syndemic Diabetes: Entanglements of Poverty, Trauma, and AIDS

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Screening Room, 50 George Square, Edinburgh

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This talk by Dr Emily Mendenhall is co-hosted by the GHGP, EID & Centre for Medical Anthropology.

Earlier this year a series of articles were published in The Lancet (http://www.thelancet.com/series/syndemics) introducing the syndemics framework to examine how two or more diseases cluster together, interact, and are driven by social, environmental, and economic factors. This theory was first proposed in critical medical anthropology but is both relevant and practical for global and domestic public health thinking about what drives diseases and how interventions can deal with clustered social and health problems. This talk discusses the Series, the syndemic concept more broadly, and how it advances our understanding of global health. Using examples of how diabetes, depression, and trauma cluster and interact among low-income communities residing in the US, India, South Africa, and Kenya, this talk will discuss why and how a syndemic framework advances the social determinants of health agenda in a pragmatic and effective way.

Emily Mendenhall, PhD, MPH is a medical anthropologist who writes about how social trauma, poverty, and social exclusion become embodied in chronic mental and physical illness. Dr. Mendenhall's first book, "Syndemic Suffering: Social Distress, Depression, and Diabetes among Mexican Immigrant Women," considers how poverty, immigration, and interpersonal violence become embodied in depression and Type 2 diabetes. This research inspired comparative projects in India, South Africa, and Kenya, which are the focus of her forthcoming book, "Rethinking Diabetes: Entanglements of Poverty, Trauma, and AIDS." Syndemics was also the topic of a Series of articles Dr. Mendenhall led in the Lancet in 2017. She is an Assistant Professor of Global Health in the Science, Technology, and International Affairs (STIA) Program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. In 2017, she was awarded the George Foster Practicing Medical Anthropology Award by the Society for Medical Anthropology.

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