Interview to Michelle Sadler-Chilean medical anthro: collaboration, public policies and designers doing research part 1

May 3, 2010 at 4:44 am Leave a comment

Figure 1: Pages from Michelle’s FONIS Manual
[Interview done in 11.2009]
Michelle Sadler
is well known in Latin America because of her work on “medicalization”, overall of childbirth. I particularly know her because of our “related research” for the public policy related to the first infancy protection program “Chile Crece Contigo” [See related post]. Michelle puts the standards high, in research and in the understanding of people for the design of public programs and policies. This young professor at Universidad de Chile, master in Medical Anthropology from Oxford University, has several publications on this matter. Her work is ideologically applied. For translating her anthropological research into concrete applications she works essentially with people from arts, design and biomedical backgrounds. An example of this is the successful manual for “Revision of personalized Child Delivery”, a FONIS project that entails information for all the parties engaging in the modality of empowering of women during childbirth [Download]. Not a very different desire from the women under attention in the “public system”. They just needed a service that accomplished the same standards or possibility the private clinics in Chile offer. This particularly well-designed and friendly guide for the biomedical community shows one format in which design-anthropology alliances can work for public and social scenarios. It was done by working with stakeholders and all of the parties “touched” by the program. This interview is about Michelle’s work and her appreciations over collaboration, anthropology and social sciences understanding communities, public policies, applied work and design engaging research. Michelle was already giving classes and being part of research projects at Universidad de Chile when she left for Oxford. Today, she gives classes at the faculty of medicine and the social sciences faculty, where she also is involved in basic research and publications. On the other hand, Michelle also works as an entrepreneur. She created an interdisciplinary consultancy firm called Cultura Salud” (Health Culture).

An academic with a very applied approach on the Chilean health context According to Sadler, anthropology is in a moment of arousal in Chile and the World: Each time there is more field, so there is more demand for the career”. Each time there are more universities dictating this profession. “I believe the social sciences are installed now. Each time is more necessary to count with social scientists, in some fields, anthropologists. Now in the Government [2009], in all the services or in many of them you have anthropologists. In the health area they are more and more. There is a need to understand the cultural and social stories. So fields are opening”. Figure 2: Pages from Michelle’s FONIS Manual
For her, translation into application is essential in the medical environment. And maybe is because of the reality of Chilean Anthropology, which is essentially applied: “…here there is a rally little amount of people that dedicate themselves to academia. At university, we have a division on the classes related to sociocultural anthropology and applied anthropology, but it an artificial division. In the end, we all work applied, we are all inserted in some context working for an applied matter or to translate into an applied topic”. For her, this is perceived as an asset: “…we can read very hard theorists in different theorists, but that won’t work to develop a policy…it works when you place it into context and you transform it into a practice, a measure, en something that is useful and contextualized”. She considers anthropology to be a great tool for understanding people in medical environments. As mentioned before, Michelle’s work has been oriented to the area of the impact of biomedicine’s ‘medicalization’ in childbirth. About the deliverables of her research she points: “the research I do I translate them into assessments, in manuals for the health personnel or users, practical material, trainees”. This anthropologist does a lot of assessment to maternities in the change of their service models. She tries not to use academic texts as an outcome of the research, but to really deliver visual manuals that can help the varied health crew to adapt to the new models proposed. She has a lot of “guide” development, which she does in cooperation with photographers and designers to achieve a graphic language. An example of this is the guide she developed for the Health Ministry:  “Revisión del Parto Personalizado” (Revision of Personalized Childbirth), which has been quite important not only in Latin America, but as a worldwide referent. “This translated in manuals. There is a guide to show the health sector teams, step by step, how others have done it. It contains images, indicators, practical tools and tips”. So the applicability of research into languages that the stakeholders involved can understand is really important in the health setting. Michelle Sadler has been able to apply her knowledge through all of Latin America by association with other social scientists in the cone.
This interview will be continued in the next post.


Entry filed under: Design Anthropology, Design Research, Methods, Social Design.

Tools: Designing interaction, “making” participation happen for public policies and other enterprises Interview to Michelle Sadler-Chilean medical anthro: collaboration, public policies and designers doing research part 2

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contact + citing (CC license)

Constanza Miranda PhD(c) design.anthro
* Currently @ DILAB
* Ex.VR @ Stanford's Center for Design Research [DesignXLab]
* Ex.Instructor @ PUC Chile [Design+Engineering]
Use citations ¡Citar es ético!
Creative Commons License
Design for Social Innovation initiative by Constanza Miranda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at