Structure vs. Agency

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.

-Katie Clontz


6 thoughts on “Structure vs. Agency

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with the fact that we have so much less to worry about, health-wise, being in a developed nation. Malaria is such an ongoing travesty. Truly, I hope we begin to make strides in funding vaccination and curative research. It just goes to show that the global healthcare industry is fueled by profit, not what is a big killer for poverty-stricken 3rd world nations.
    -Jordan Wilcox


  2. You made a great point! Americans that travel to Africa and other nations affected by malaria are treated with a medicine that prevents the parasite from living in the body. I believe that one type is taken once a week, beginning 2 weeks before the trip until 4 weeks after. The other type is taken every day for the length of the visit and two weeks after. If this was available to residents of all of those countries, malaria would not be an issue unless the parasite built up immunity to the medication. However, it is unavailable, unaffordable, and simply impractical for those residents. Although these residence would probably practice good agency and take these medications, their structure does not allow for it.


  3. I had absolutely no idea that white-tailed deer carried malarial diseases. I didn’t even consider that a possibility. I totally agree with your point though. If an outbreak occurred in the states, we would find a cure so quickly. In developing countries, it kills more people than it would here due to lack of education and health care resources. We are truly more fortunate, but I think that we should focus on everyone collectively. Thank you for such an informative post!

    -Gabriella Feltman


  4. I completely agree with your blog! It is almost odd how much of a sense of safety we are allowed to have in America. Here we can depend on our scientist and doctors to catch and treat any outbreak that we are faced with. We do not have to feel the devastation that developing countries feel from malaria, AIDS, and even more recently with Ebola.

    Josh Clyde


  5. I also agree with this post. We do not see what other countries are going through and almost take for granted what the doctors and physicians are doing for us. we should realize more what the developing countries may be going through and be more aware of the different outbreaks they may be going through.
    -Alli Stamper


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