My books and articles bring together more than a decade of research and writing at the intersection of anthropology, medicine, and public health. this work has focused on how social and health conditions travel together in cities, From Chicago to Delhi to Lusaka, Johannesburg, and Nairobi.
In a major contribution to the study of diabetes, this book is the first to analyze the disease through a syndemic framework. An innovative, mixed-methods study, Emily Mendenhall shows how adverse social conditions, such as poverty and oppressive relationships, disproportionately stress certain populations and expose them to disease clusters. She goes beyond epidemiological research that has linked diabetes and depression, revealing how broad structural inequalities play out in the life histories of individuals, families, and communities, and lead to higher rates of mortality and morbidity. This intimate portrait of syndemic suffering is a model study of chronic disease disparity among the poor in high income countries and will be widely read in public health, medical anthropology, and related fields.
In Rethinking Diabetes, Emily Mendenhall investigates how global and local factors transform how diabetes is perceived, experienced, and embodied from place to place. Mendenhall argues that the link between sugar and diabetes overshadows the ways in which underlying biological processes linking hunger, oppression, trauma, unbridled stress, and chronic mental distress produce diabetes. The life history narratives in the book show how deeply embedded these factors are in the ways diabetes is experienced and (re)produced among poor communities around the world.
Rethinking Diabetes focuses on the stories of women living with diabetes near or below the poverty line in urban settings in the United States, India, South Africa, and Kenya. Mendenhall shows how women's experiences of living with diabetes cannot be dissociated from their social responsibilities of caregiving, demanding family roles, expectations, and gendered experiences of violence that often displace their ability to care for themselves first. These case studies reveal the ways in which a global story of diabetes overlooks the unique social, political, and cultural factors that produce syndemic diabetes differently across contexts.
From the case studies, Rethinking Diabetes clearly provides some important parallels for scholars to consider: significant social and economic inequalities, health systems that are a mix of public and private (with substandard provisions for low-income patients), and rising diabetes incidence and prevalence. At the same time, Mendenhall asks us to unpack how social, cultural, and epidemiological factors shape people's experiences and why we need to take these differences seriously when we think about what drives diabetes and how it affects the lives of the poor.
While there is increasing political interest in research and policy-making for global mental health, there remain major gaps in the education of students in health fields for understanding the complexities of diverse mental health conditions. Drawing on the experience of many well-known experts in this area, this book uses engaging narratives to illustrate that mental illnesses are not only problems experienced by individuals but must also be understood and treated at the social and cultural levels. The book -includes discussion of traditional versus biomedical beliefs about mental illness, the role of culture in mental illness, intersections between religion and mental health, intersections of mind and body, and access to health care; -is ideal for courses on global mental health in psychology, public health, and anthropology departments and other health-related programs.