Focus in the Anthropology of Health


blue pills in package


What is the Anthropology of Health ?

Anthropology of health is the study of human biology and how it relates to cultural and physical environments through time. It emphasizes the effects of cultural and socioeconomic processes on biological and health outcomes in human populations. 

Developed by faculty members Dr. Tracey Galloway, an expert in chronic disease epidemiology and Indigenous health, and Dr. Madeleine Mant, a specialist in bioarchaeology and archival approaches to health, this focus aims to prepare anthropologists for careers in health, broadly conceived, and to train future health scientists in the anthropological techniques that lend scientific rigour and humanist compassion to a career in the health professions. 

Are you interested in biology, health care, research, community, wellness, socioeconomics, or culture? Consider a focus in the Anthropology of Health at UTM.

Career areas include:

  • Health Education
  • Public Health Research
  • Epidemiology
  • Medical science
  • Health Care Administration
  • Health Outreach Coordination
  • Health and Social Policy Analysis
  • Health Care Consultancy
  • Academia
  • Social Work
  • Nutrition
  • Prenatal education and nutrition
  • Early childhood development
  • Immunization programs
  • Chronic disease prevention
  • Diabetes management
  • Active living
  • Food security
  • and employment with:
    • Regional health services
    • Hospitals
    • Family practice teams

"Medical anthropology drew me to the field of medicine. For me, the fields of anthropology and medicine have been effortlessly confluent. The recognition of this interplay between health and sickness, and the political, economic and social structures that affect patient outcomes has made me a better clinician, and ultimately has helped me treat the patients I work for." - Andrea Chan: Orthopaedic Surgeon

Undergraduate programs

UTM undergraduate students who focus in the anthropology of health normally enrol in one of the following programs:

  • Specialist Program in Anthropology (Science) ERSPE0105
  • Major Program in Anthropology (Science) ERMAJ0105

Learn about Anthropology programs at UTM

Anthropology of Health Courses

Most of our recommended upper-level courses for a focus in the anthropology of health are Anthropology Science (SCI) credits. 

Learn more about course selection for Anthropology programs at UTM.

Anthropology of health courses examine a broad range of factors that contribute to growth, development and health, as well as the variable exposure to malnutrition and disease that is the consequence of inequality and injustice.

ANT220H5F Introduction to the Anthropology of Health

Prerequisites: ANT101H5 and ANT102H5

This course introduces students to the many strategies anthropologists use to understand patterns of health and disease in human populations. It will serve as an entry point into the new Anthropology of Health focus, and will be a prerequisite for later courses in Growth and Development, Infectious Disease, and the Advanced Seminar in the Anthropology of Health. In this course, the concept of health is examined using archaeology, biomedicine, medical anthropology, and epidemiology, with emphasis on particular diseases and conditions (cancer, tuberculosis, cystic fibrosis). The course examines evolutionary, epigenetic, and life history approaches to understanding chronic disease risk in human populations, culminating in an investigation of the role of poverty and social inequality on disease burden. Although the course is designed as an introduction to the new Health focus, it is suitable for students seeking training in pre-health disciplines and is open to all students possessing the necessary prerequisites.

ANT214H5S Anthropology of Food and Nutrition

No prerequisites; open to all students

This course explores human food use and nutrition from a broad anthropological perspective. It examines archaeological evidence of dietary patterns of human ancestors, and examines contemporary phenomena such as the preference for sweetness and lactase persistence that are the legacy of ancestral adaptations. It explores significant food revolutions, from the origins of agriculture to the relatively recent phenomenon of biotechnological food production, and looks at both the positive and negative effects of these changes on patterns of human growth and health. The goal of the course is to provide students with a basic understanding of nutrition science that is contextualized in contemporary anthropological debates about the costs of changing food systems.

ANT338H5S Laboratory Methods in Biological Anthropology

Prerequisites: ( ANT202H5 or ANT203H5) and ANT220H5

To support students interested in the health courses, we have altered our lab methods course to focus on laboratory techniques used by biological anthropologists to assess growth, health and risk of chronic disease in human populations. In this course students will gain practical, hands-on experience in anthropometry, nutrition assessment, physical activity and sleep assessment, and human energy expenditure. State-of-the-art instruments and software are employed, ensuring students gain valuable knowledge of data management and analysis using applications suitable in both clinical and research settings.

ANT337H5 Anthropology of Growth and Development

Prerequisites: ( ANT202H5 or ANT203H5) and ANT220H5

This course examines the fundamental biological principles of growth and how these are expressed throughout evolution. It explores the evolution of growth patterns among primates and hominins and compares patterns of growth among the living primates. The course examines human growth and development throughout infancy, childhood and adolescence and explores the influence of of genetic, epigenetic and endocrine processes on the plasticity of human growth that ultimately produces the variability observed in our species. The goal of the course is to provide students with a complex understanding of how evolutionary and environmental processes interact in the production of growth and health in human populations.

ANT341H5 Anthropology of Infectious Disease

Prerequisites: ( ANT202H5 or ANT204H5) and ANT220H5

Infection is a significant area of study for anthropologists because it is situated at the intersection of social and biological experience. This course examines why infectious disease occupies such a central position in our contemporary understanding of health. It examines the many theoretical and methodological approaches currently used to understand how humans experience infectious illness. Perspectives from bioarchaeology, demography, environmental anthropology, biocultural anthropology, and medical anthropology are used to examine the way epidemics and infections have been understood throughout human history and how those understandings continue to shape human perceptions of risk, the body and identity. Emphasis is on patterns of plague, tuberculosis, HIV, water-borne disease, and vector-borne illness such as malaria and Zeca virus. Social inequality is a major focus of inquiry; the course explores how colonialism, globalization and injustice lead to significant and persistent health inequalities for many populations.

ANT437H5 Advanced Seminar in the Anthropology of Health

Prerequisites: ( ANT202H5 or ANT204H5) and ANT220H5

This course is the culmination of the undergraduate anthropology of health focus, and aims to prepare students for workplace application and graduate study in a wide range of clinical and research domains. The course brings together diverse branches of biological investigation (human biology, nutrition, growth and development, chronic and communicable disease) and undertakes a critical examination of theory and methods used in the study of human health. It traces the historical development of the powerful biomedical paradigm that dominates health research today and uses a critical lens to examine the systems used to measure and classify health and disease. It explores evolutionary and biological approaches to understanding human health by examining the concepts of adaptation and plasticity, genetic and epigenetic approaches, developmental origins and life history theories, social determinants of health, and critical medical anthropology. The course explores the profoundly influential role of social inequality on the production and reproduction of health in historical and contemporary populations.

ANT462 - Living and Dying: Topics in Medical Anthropology and Global Health

Prerequisite: ANT204H5

This course is concerned with contemporary medical knowledge practices, with particular emphasis on Western medicine and public health. Through a set of key readings in sociocultural medical anthropology, students will explore topics such as the art and science of medicine, end of life rites and rituals, expertise, and the politics and perils of intervention. This is an advanced, writing-intensive seminar that will particularly appeal to sociocultural anthropology students, and those interested in pursuing a career in the health professions.

Teaching and Research Specialties

At UTM, our faculty teaching and research specialties include:

  • Indigenous health
  • Circumpolar populations
  • Nutrition transition
  • Food security
  • Chronic disease
  • Child growth
  • Public health policy
  • Trauma
  • Bioarchaeology
  • Institutionalization
  • Archival research methodology

Regions of interest include:

  • Northern Canada
  • Atlantic Canada
  • United Kingdom

Virtual Showcase Information Session: A brief overview of the Anthropology of Health at UTM presented by Dr. Steven Dorland (3:00)