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

The boat is successfully being put to work!

As of the beginning of January 2014, the boat has been delivered to the villages along the shores of Lake Rukwa. On January 2, 2014 there was an official handing over ceremony convened by the Rukwa Region's Regional Commissioner. On March 15, 2014 I went to Mtowisa Health Center for a celebration of White Ribbon Day, which commemorates those women who have died due to pregnancy related causes as well as to advocate for increased efforts to reduce maternal mortality. This year, Tanzania's Minister of Health and Social Welfare was present at the ceremony as were a number of heads of party or country directors from a variety of non-governmental organizations working on issues of maternal and reproductive health care in Tanzania. I was asked to speak for a couple minutes about the boat and what purpose it will serve. I was warmly welcomed by the local community as well as district and regional officials, and the Minister of Health himself. It is my hope that this boat project will pave the way for further collaboration with these organizations and people in the Rukwa Region in the future.

Less than a week after White Ribbon Day, I was able to return to Mtowisa and see the boat in action. I traveled with the Assistant District Medical Officer and two other health workers to a village on the far shore of Lake Rukwa where there is a suspected measles outbreak. The children in the village have never received vaccines and many of the children, and some adults, have contracted measles. We went to collect blood samples to take to Dar es Salaam for testing to confirm an outbreak. The boat will also be used to bring much needed vaccines to the community in the near future.
The boat and lifejackets!

The boat and lifejackets!

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