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

Community Discussions on Reproductive Health and Safe Motherhood

This past week I have started my first trips to villages outside of Sumbawanga Town. Through focus group discussions, led with the help of my research assistant, we learned an enormous amount about the needs of the community related to health care services and, particularly, health education. Additionally, we gained a great deal of insight into the relations between men and women and the ways in which these relations may be inhibiting male participation in reproductive health care services.

In addition to listening to the community members, we answered many questions concerning giving birth at the regional hospital, family planning, HIV testing, and community participation in health care services. We responded to concerns by parents related to what they view as problematic early pregnancies and the behavior of their teenage children that seem to be leading to these early pregnancies. We discussed with the Village Chairman about the dangers of childhood pregnancy and marriage for girls and some possible ways for managing these issues within his community.

In partnership with the health care providers at the village dispensary, I am now helping them to plan a health education seminar for the village's young people, as well as some health seminars for women together with their husbands. Women told us men were reluctant to go with them to the prenatal clinic, which has been widely emphasized by the government, and women said their husbands accuse them of lying about the information they are receiving at the clinic. By brainstorming some new methods of delivering health education within the community based on their current needs and interests, I have high hopes we may continue to increase men's willingness to participate in these important services and to support their wives, daughters, and daughter-in-laws. I'm also working with the District Medical Office to give them feedback from our meetings and to encourage them to more effectively communicate with and support the dispensary and the efforts of the health care providers in this village.

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