Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version

Spring 4-24-2019

Thesis Advisor

Frances Barg, Adriana Petryna


infant and maternal health, West Philadelphia, maternal mortality, women's health, medical anthropology


In 2000, the United Nations set forth its Millennium Developmental Goals, drawing attention to a worldwide epidemic of maternal mortality. This visibility facilitated global efforts to reduce maternal mortality and improve overall maternal health. Despite a successful reduction of 44% in the global maternal mortality rate, this progress was not seen by all members of the international community, especially the United States, reflecting numerous and diverse disparities related to healthcare access. In West Philadelphia, where the maternal mortality rate is as much as 1.5 times higher than the national average, the poor outcomes in maternal health in are a product of such disparities. This ethnographic study aims to investigate how maternal health is West Philadelphia is inhibited by barriers to access, looking at the challenges as well as the ways in which they are navigated. This thesis begins by analyzing the descriptive conceptualizations of maternal health that emerge from the women of West Philadelphia in comparison to normative ones given by biomedical discourse. The second section deconstructs this discrepancy, arguing that various barriers to healthcare access minimize the value and use of biomedical interventions. These barriers include, but are not limited to, poor urban infrastructure, finances, and characteristics of maternal health. The third section examines the social support system women in West Philadelphia create and rely on to navigate these barriers.

Included in

Anthropology Commons



Date Posted: 22 August 2019


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