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Grandma vs The Doctor: Traditional and New Knowledge in Conflict

Talking to a group of parents in Tanzania, I heard about a parenting challenge I know all too well. Advice from medical professionals is often inconsistent with tradition, how we were raised and what we hear from our extended family members.

Photo of Jason Rissman
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Probably everywhere, parents of young children face the challenge of feeling pressure from their own parents to care for their kids in traditional ways. Even in locations where good research is readily available and the medical community is trusted, it's still often difficult for parents to adopt parenting practices unfamiliar to their older relatives. For communities where information is less acccessible and doctors might often be associated with untrusted outside influences, this negotiation can be even harder. 

How can parents more easily balance traditional and new knowledge in ways that help their children while not alienating other family members?

How can doctors and others with new knowledge better equip parents to adopt new practices by better recognizing their social context?


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Photo of Laura Schwecherl

This is great. As a once-student of Anthropology, I firmly believe that any type of development work done at a community level has to be implemented from an anthropological perspective. If doctors do not understand the community from a local lens, then their practice could become completely useless if it fails to be adopted.

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