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Revista de Saúde Pública

On-line version ISSN 1518-8787Print version ISSN 0034-8910


BEHAGUE, Dominique P  and  GONCALVES, Helen. Exploring multiple trajectories of causality: collaboration between Anthropology and Epidemiology in the 1982 birth cohort, Pelotas, Southern Brazil. Rev. Saúde Pública [online]. 2008, vol.42, suppl.2, pp.115-123. ISSN 1518-8787.

OBJECTIVE: Although the relationship between epidemiology and anthropology has a long history, it has generally been comprised of the integration of quantitative and qualitative methods. Only recently have the two fields begun to converge along theoretical lines, leading to a growing mutual interest in explaining rather than simply describing phenomena. This paper aimed to illustrate how ethnographic analyses can be used to assist with the in-depth and theoretically-imbued interpretation of epidemiological results. METHODS: The anthropological analysis presented in this paper used ethnographic data collected as part of the ongoing 1982 birth cohort study, between 1997 and 2007 in Pelotas, Southern Brazil. Analyses were framed according to the results presented in two of the epidemiological articles published in this series on the determinants of mental morbidity and age of sexual initiation. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: The ethnographic results show that statistical associations consist of multiple pathways of influence and causality that generally correspond to the unique experiences of specific subgroups. In exploring these pathways, the paper highlights the importance of an additional set of mediating factors that account for epidemiological results; these include the awareness and experience of inequities, the role of violence in everyday life, traumatic life events, increasing social isolation and emotional introversion as a response to life's difficulties, and differing approaches towards socio-psychological maturation. Theoretical and methodological collaboration between anthropology and epidemiology is important for public health, as it has positively modified both fields.

Keywords : Causality; Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice; Interdisciplinary Research; Anthropology, Cultural; Epidemiology.

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