Adrienne Strong

Medical anthropology, maternal mortality, hospital ethnography, and dignity in women's health care

I am a medical anthropologist and Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Florida with a joint Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis, USA and the Universiteit van Amsterdam in the Netherlands. I study maternal mortality and women's health in Tanzania, currently in the Kigoma region on a birth companionship program and the notions of ideal comfort, care, and support for pregnant women in labor. Before my current position, I was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow with Columbia University's Mailman School of Health, in the Averting Maternal Death and Disability (AMDD) Program in the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health and a Fellow at the Columbia Population Research Center.

My current book project, Documenting Death: Maternal Mortality and the Ethics of Care in Tanzania, under contract with University of California Press, focuses on the inner workings of a government regional referral hospital in Tanzania, examining how institutional structures related to hierarchy, bureaucracy, historical precedents, communication and other factors, may influence the capacity of the institution to provide effective maternal healthcare during times of obstetric crisis. My research focuses on biomedical healthcare providers and administrators, groups that are often overlooked in the context of medical anthropology in sub-Saharan Africa. I contextualize the hospital ethnography with interviews, participant observation, and focus group discussions in communities throughout the region, as well as through the use of primary archival sources from the colonial and post-independence eras. This is the first ethnography to examine the issue of maternal mortality in a low resource setting from this perspective and in the setting of a biomedical facility, complementing the existing work of anthropologists of reproduction who have worked at the community level.

I worked in the Rukwa Region for my PhD fieldwork, which I conducted from January 2014- August 2015. From September 2010 through July 2011, I conducted research on access to healthcare services during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period in the Singida Region of Tanzania. My most recent project was about a birth companion pilot program in the Kigoma region of Tanzania from January through December 2018, which focused on the ways in which companions impact the social dynamics of health center maternity wards and the care provided in those settings. This project also included an 80-question cultural consensus survey and analysis around the cultural domain of care and support for pregnant women.

This is my personal website, which includes updates on my research, collaborations, conference presentations and papers, publications, teaching, and critical responses to current events related to women's health and reproduction.

Mentions and Public Anthropology

Paper Prize

Washington University Feature

Feature on Anthropology Department Website

Research Report on Global Health Hub

Photoessay on

Mention on Anthrodendum

Mention on Anthrodendum for fieldwork blog

Rukwa Partnership for Health Boat Project

Since September 2012, I have been working with University United Methodist Church in St. Louis, MO, USA to raise funds to purchase a boat that will serve as emergency transport to health care services for five villages on the shores of Lake Rukwa in the Rukwa Region of Tanzania.  Currently, these villages have no direct routes of access to the nearest health care centers.  They are only able to access these centers via a dirt road.  Oftentimes the road conditions are poor and the communities are unable to coordinate vehicles or patients and their families are unable to collect the necessary cash to pay for such services.  This boat will be turned over to the District Medical Office of the Sumbawanga Urban District and will be used for transporting pregnant women and patients with health emergencies to care. By going across the lake, instead of around, the boat will cut crucial hours from these people's journey to potentially life saving health care services.

We are proud to announce that as of mid-July 2013 we have surpassed our $10,000 goal and have raised $11,224 for the purchase of a fiberglass boat, made in Tanzania (in Dar es Salaam), a motor, and six life jackets.  


 (This is not the boat that was purchased. I do not have a photo available, at this point in time, but will be tracking it down upon my return to Tanzania in January 2014.)

 (This is not the boat that was purchased. I do not have a photo available, at this point in time, but will be tracking it down upon my return to Tanzania in January 2014.)

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