While we were in class on Thursday discussing structure and agency in terms of health, I thought of certain diseases in Africa and other developing parts of the world that can be used to exemplify these concepts. We discussed how the AIDS spread in Haiti was in many ways due to the socio-economic-political landscape and the environment in which those who were infected with AIDS lived. In other words, structural constraints played a huge part in the spread of the disease and limited the individual’s agency to improve his/her own health.
I also thought of malaria while we were discussing this, and I happened upon an article posted just a day ago on Science Daily in which white-tailed deer in the U.S. have been found to carry the first ever malarial parasites found in any deer species. They also discovered that the malarial parasite is native to the Americas, meaning that it had been carried in deer species that traveled from Eurasia across the Bering Land Bridge to North America millions of years ago. Those researching the parasite stated that this most likely poses little danger to humans, as these white-tailed deer populations have carried it for millions of years and have had a lot of contact with humans through game hunting.
Though this discovery is unlikely to mean much for humans in America, we can be sure that if it did pose danger, we would have much better chances of treatment and cure than do many people in places like Africa where malaria is a major threat. The differences in the structural barriers that would be faced are pretty significant. People in those places are much less likely to have access to good health care, if any. Unlike AIDS, malaria can be cured, and still so many people die every day because of the little agency they have to improve their health conditions. This is a good example of the ways in which structural factors and agency are influenced by one another. The more structural barriers you have due to where you live and the lack of opportunities you have, the less agency you have as well.