Katy Meier Reading Response 3 – Barclay

To be completely honest, I have not kept up with the news very much at all in past couple weeks. At least not any more than the usual PBS News Hour each night and what I hear from friends and family. Voxmedia is not a common news source for many people I know but I thought that this news article did a nice job of justifying the recent call for “social distancing” and explaining the now commonly used phrase of “flattening the curve” without using scare tactics. I feel that in the past weeks, I have seen many new headlines and stories highlighting the exponentially increasing case numbers and fatal outcomes, heightening fears without really accomplishing any other productive agenda. Contrastingly, this Voxmedia news article integrates various credible sources such as the CDC and the Huffington Post to produce information that contextualizes the pandemic as the crisis that it is but at the same time providing a meaningful method to reduce the spread of the virus. Furthermore, I thought that the Voxmedia persuasive video, embedded in the article, used similar tactics as the news article such as using credible quotes and voices, graphics and logos. Opening the video clip with an excerpt from a recent World Health Organization conference sets a serious and reliable tone for the video, enabling views to trust the information that follows. The animated, yet simple graphics effectively conveys how easily COVID-19 can spread and exemplifies the way that social distancing can work to slow the spread of the virus. Lastly, the video makes an appeal to logic by using the prior example of the 1918 flu pandemic and comparing the outcomes of Philadelphia and St. Louis. It graphically shows that social distance measures that St. Louis enacted significantly slowed the spread of the flu. Overall, I thought that this was well written article that successfully summarized the urgent scale of the pandemic but also what we can do to help.


Barclay, Eliza, and Dylan Scott. “How Canceled Events and Self-Quarantines Save Lives, in One Chart .” Vox, Voxmedia, 10 Mar. 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/3/10/21171481/coronavirus-us-cases-quarantine-cancellation.


Structural Competency and Personal Narrative – Katy Meier

Prompt: In describing the experience of being black and pregnant, Villarosa intertwines a personal narrative and facts/figures. Explain why might or might not be an effective way to better understand Metzl and Hansen’s concept of “structural competency?”

Structural competency is an educational approach devised by anthropologists that focuses on the social and economic structures of healthcare and involves training in 5 core themes. These include factors that shape clinical encounters, structural language outside the clinic, defining culture in structural terms, creating structural interventions, and structural humility (Metzl and Hansen 126). Metzl and Hansen portray structural competency as an action-oriented approach requiring education, arguing that “clinicians require skills that help them treat persons that come to clinics as patients, and at the same time recognize how social and economic determinants, biases, inequities, and blind spots shape health and illness” (Metzl and Hansen 127). However, they describe the premises of structural competency with a very abstract and theoretical attitude which manifests itself in the genre and language they employ. Metzl and Hansen publish this article in the academic journal titled “Social Science and Medicine”, targeting their research towards a scholarly audience interested in theory. In addition, their use of matter of fact and generalized language to describe overall conditions of “food deserts” and “zoning laws, economics, schools, and courts,” furthers this abstract tone of the article as opposed to inclusion of personal narratives (Metzl and Hansen 127). It pairs this objective language with action-oriented and encouraging language such as “our call for structural competency” (132) and “clinical training must shift its gaze” (127) in order to motivate the reader to apply this theoretical approach to medical education. Unfortunately, I think these literary devices detract from the personal implications of a structural competency approach, creating a detached feeling in the reader. I believe that the literary devices employed by Villarosa more effectively portray the important purpose and core meaning of structural competency through how she interweaves personal narratives with statistics. Since Villarosa is working within the genre of a popular news article, she has the advantage of using photographs, hyperlinks, dialogue, and block quotes to communicate more clearly the core principles of structural competency and its urgent need. Metzl and Hansen’s journal article explicitly state the core principles of structural competency and the need for it to be put into practice. On the other hand, Villarosa conveys the same idea but uses more subtle and implicit techniques that elicit emotion from the reader, communicating the idea of structural competency in a more impactful manner. Villarosa uses Landrum’s story to embody the social and economic structural difficulties addressed in Metzel and Hansen’s article. And uses Giwa to exemplify the positive effects of a structural competency approach in action because she was aware of the structural barriers faced by Landrum yet managed to navigate them and make the birth of Landrum’s fourth child a better experience. Ultimately, I believe that focusing on a specific situation that embodies structural competency, as Villarosa did, is a more effective communication method as opposed to exploring the theoretical framework of a concept as Metzl and Hansen did.


Works Cited

Metzl, Jonathan M, and Helena Hansen. “Structural Competency: Theorizing a New Medical Engagement with Stigma and Inequality.” Social Science & Medicine, vol. 103, 2013, pp.126–133.

Villarosa, Linda. “Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 11 Apr. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/04/11/magazine/black-mothers-babies-death-maternal-mortality.html.

Reading Response 1 – Arthur Kleinman from Katy Meier

Utilizing his knowledge as both a psychiatrist and anthropologist, Arthur Kleinman details distinct definitions for the following terms: “illness”, “disease” and “sickness”. These definitions are specific yet overlapping at the same time. “Illness” involves the unique and personal experience of an individual suffering. An example of “illness” as the subjective lived experience of a disorder include the incomprehensible pain of losing an arm and being unable to express oneself through art ever again. Kleiman states that, “Illness problems are the principal difficulties that symptoms and disability create in our lives”. He continues by giving a multitude of examples, “We may become demoralized and lose our hope of getting better, or we may be depressed by our fear of death, or of becoming an invalid. We grieve over lost health, altered body image, and dangerously declining self-esteem” (4). Kleiman’s examples involve the non-standardized aspects of a disorder that are rarely addressed publicly. I find it interesting that as Kleinman lists these examples, he uses the plural pronoun “we”, including both himself and the reader. I think his intentions for doing this were to emphasize that illness problems are experienced by all yet no one experiences them in the same way.

The distinct definitions between, “illness”, “disease” and “sickness” are important because recognizing these differences allows us to better understand the meanings behind disorders both in our own culture and cross-culturally. Furthermore, it enables us to better address and relieve suffering. By confining the term “disease” to biomedical usage and using “illness” to address the condition holistically, instead of the two synonymously, empowers the individual suffering. Kleiman refers to disease as “radically materialist” meaning that it focuses solely on the testable and irrefutable science of a pathogen. As Kleinman specifies later in the chapter, he says that disease refers to the “technical quest for the control of symptoms” (9). Using this specific language, Kleiman gives a narrow definition to disease.


Work Cited

Kleinman, Arthur. The Illness Narratives: Suffering, Healing, and the Human 

               Condition. Basic Books, Inc, 1998.

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