UCL News


Top award for medical anthropologist

18 November 2004

A UCL academic has been awarded the most prestigious international prize in medical anthropology.

Dr Cecil Helman Dr Cecil Helman (Primary Care & Population Sciences) has won the Career Achievement Award from the American Anthropological Association's Society for Medical Anthropology.

The award recognises Dr Helman's many years of work in medical anthropology. After gaining an initial medical degree from the University of Cape Town, Dr Helman studied for a Diploma in Social Anthropology at UCL. He has since held academic posts in medical anthropology in different countries, including as a Visiting Fellow at Harvard Medical School, and as Visiting Professor in the Multicultural Health Programme at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, and is now a senior lecturer at UCL.

In recent years, Dr Helman has specialised in cross-cultural medical care, giving numerous lectures and publishing papers and books in the area. Recent work has included a paper about food beliefs amongst British Bangladeshis, a chapter on cultural competence in health care for the European Textbook of Family Medicine, and research into the reasons for the low uptake of childhood immunisations among rural communities in South Africa. 

Internationally, Dr Helman may be best known for his classic work Culture, Health and Illness which has been the standard international textbook on culturally competent medical care since its initial publication in 1984. Now in its fourth edition, the book has been used in 39 countries throughout the world, including in over 120 medical schools, universities and nursing colleges in North America.

Culture, Health and Illness explains how different cultural, social and ethnic groups understand the causes of ill health, what treatments they believe in and whom these groups turn to when they are ill. Armed with a better understanding of these factors, health workers throughout the world can provide more effective medical care and health education to their patients. 

Dr Helman will be formally presented with his award in November 2004. To find out more about the award, or about Culture, Health and Illness use the links below.

American Anthropological Association
Culture, Health and Illness