The Global Microbiome: microbes and public health beyond biology
Dr. Amber Benezra, PhD
March 10, 2021, 12:00 – 13:00 EST.
About the speaker: Dr. Amber Benezra is an Assistant Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Stevens Institute of Technology. She is a sociocultural anthropologist researching how studies of the human microbiome intersect with biomedical ethics, public health/technological infrastructures, and care. In partnership with human microbial ecologists, she is developing an “anthropology of microbes” to address global health problems across disciplines.
About the seminar: Many human microbiome studies actively seek solutions for global public health crises like malnutrition, yet microbiome science fails to account for the sociomaterial, political, and economic conditions of life that affect microbial populations. This talk will discuss cross-disciplinary collaborations between anthropology and human microbial ecology. Social science interventions are necessary to foreground how issues like race, gender, poverty, and infrastructure impact human microbiomes.
About the series: Microorganisms are critical to many aspects of biological life, including human health. The human body is a veritable universe for microorganisms: some pass through but once, some are frequent tourists, and some spend their entire existence in the confines of our body tissues. The collective microbial community, our microbiome, can be impacted by the details of our lifestyle, including diet, hygiene, health status, and more, but many are driven by social, economic, medical, or political constraints that restrict available choices that may impact our health.
Access to resources is the basis for creating and resolving social equity—access to healthcare, healthy foods, a suitable living environment, and to beneficial microorganisms, but also access to personal and occupational protection to avoid exposure to infectious disease. This speaker series explores the way that microbes connect public policy, social disparities, and human health, as well as the ongoing research, education, policy, and innovation in this field. The spring speaker series will pave the way for a symposium on “Microbes, Social Equity, and Rural Health” in summer 2021.