Emory Report
April 13, 2009
Volume 61, Number 27


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April 13
, 2009
Children’s stories fill health narrative need

By Carol Clark

“The first time Naba Raj had seen a dhami was two years ago. While in school, his tongue began to tingle then went numb and soon he could not move at all. Then everything was gone. His world went black.”

Brandon Kohrt wrote the story of a young boy faced with epilepsy in rural Nepal, based on his field experience as an Emory medical student and Ph.D. candidate in anthropology. The story is one of 12 in the recently published book “Global Health Narratives,” told from the perspective of children dealing with a health challenge of their own, or of that of someone that they love.

“Many of the stories show how young people can overcome difficult problems. I think it’s important to show young people that they have power and hope,” says Emily Mendenhall ’06PH, editor of the book.

Naba Raj, for instance, needed to go to a doctor trained in Western medicine to get drugs to control his seizures. But his grandfather also sought the services of a traditional healer, or dhami, to transform the “curse” of his illness into an omen of luck for his family.

The idea for the book grew out of a seminar by Emory’s Center for Health, Culture and Society on the use of narratives in health and healing. The seminar is co-taught by Kate Winskell, associate professor in the Hubert Department of Global Health, and Peter Brown, professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Health, Culture and Society.

“I have a lot of friends who teach young children, and they were frustrated because they wanted to have a conversation with their students about global health, but there is no curriculum for that. That inspired me to put together stories that young people could read, and that teachers could use in the classroom,” says Mendenhall.

A graduate of the Rollins School of Public Health, Mendenhall is currently working on a Ph.D. in medical anthropology at Northwestern. She drew on many of her Emory contacts in editing the book, and about half of the contributions are from Emory alumni or those with current connections to the University.

The stories cover everything from the impact of cancer in Japan to air pollution in India and HIV/AIDS in Thailand. For more information on the book, visit http://www.ghn4c.org.