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

Putting Qualitative Research to Work

I have been continuing with my visits to a number of villages throughout the Rukwa region since the middle of February. Most recently, I was able to meet with one of the District Medical Officers and, in addition to getting his insight on the challenges he faces in his job, I was able to share with him some insight from my research. He was very receptive to some of my suggestions and asked me to help him design some questions that can be used with women and their partners in the communities to gauge the quality of education and counseling being given at prenatal clinic visits. He told me he has never done qualitative research, though he has a Masters in Public Health, and is familiar with other research methods. He also asked me to please read his thesis on low facility delivery rates in his district and offer some suggestions on how to design a qualitative study to partner with the numbers. I am very excited that he showed interest in expanding his skill set and I am more than excited to have the opportunity to teach some qualitative methods to people! There is definitely a lack of solid, well-designed qualitative research informing these health policies and programs. Some interventions seem to be so off the mark because they are designed in national or international offices far removed from the daily reality of the areas in which they are to be implemented. I'm also hoping to have a chance to work with the Wazazi na Mwana project as they finish up their end of project reports and start writing grants for future projects. I have already been asked by the country project director to contribute some of my insight from the hospital setting as a complement to their work in the villages.  

Powered by Squarespace. Background image from Singida Region, Tanzania by Adrienne Strong