Global Health, Medical Anthropology, and Social Marketing: Steps to the Ecology of Collaboration

Linda Whiteford


Anthropology and global health have long been a focus of research for both biological and medical anthropologists.  Research has looked at physiological adaptations to high altitudes, community responses to water-borne diseases, the integration of traditional and biomedical approaches to health, global responses to HIV/AIDS, and more recently, to the application of cultural approaches to the control of the Ebola epidemic. Academic anthropology has employed theory and methods to extend knowledge, but less often to apply that knowledge. However, anthropologists outside of the academy have tackled global health issues such as family planning and breast-feeding by bringing together applied medical anthropology and social marketing.  In 2014, that potent and provocative combination resulted in the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida being made the home of an innovative center designed to combine academic and applied anthropology with social marketing in order to facilitate social change. This article discusses how inter- and intra-disciplinary research/application has led to the development of Florida’s first World Health Organization Collaborating Center (WHO CC), and the first such center to focus on social marketing, social change and non-communicable diseases. This article explains the genesis of the Center and presents readers with a brief overview, basic principles and applications of social marketing by reviewing a case study of a water conservation project.  The article concludes with thoughts on the ecology of collaboration among global health, medical anthropology and social marketing practitioners.


medical anthropology; social marketing; social change; world health organization

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