Situating health and well-being in the Atlanta and Trinidad-Tobago transnational context
Chaudhari, Lisa Shanti
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This study investigates the ethnoecology of a transnational community focusing on changes in health knowledge and perceptions influencing health practices. I use a multi-sited approach integrating classic ethnographic techniques and cross-disciplinary methods such as GIS to study the Atlanta and Trinidad and Tobago transnational community. This complementary approach based on an ethnoecological and biocultural framework is used to: 1) document and compare the ethnoecology between both locations, 2) assess and compare health, 3) examine health practices, and 4) evaluate health and well-being perceptions. This study allows us to set a baseline from which the relatively young, but growing Trinidad and Tobago community in Atlanta can be compared to other established communities (e.g. New York and Toronto). Findings point to a disjuncture between physical and perceived health status, highlighting the complex nature of well-being in migrant communities. The Atlanta community results indicate poor physical health, yet self-rated health is superior. Investigating health practices through individual health network maps and geo-narratives show us that place and space are significant factors across locations. Health resources close to home represent a large proportion of resources accessed. In Atlanta, a sense of “home” is an underlying factor behind behavior. When looking at health perspectives, key concepts consistent across locations include food-diet, the ocean, and relaxation. The distinctions in the level of importance or presence of themes illustrate transformations in health and wellness concepts. A multilevel health approach that takes elements from a variety of health categories (e.g. biomedical, ethnobotanical) is common to both locations. This project demonstrates how a comprehensive and layered picture of well-being in this transnational setting is critical and how its complexity can be reflected at varying levels. By assessing specific dimensions of knowledge, perceptions, and practice, I explore the interplay of factors influencing the human environment relationship to determine significant elements that promote health and well-being of this community. I look at how research in this particular transnational community contributes to recent conversations in ethnoecology, migration and health studies. Finally, I discuss the applicability and value of cross-disciplinary methods for local health projects.