M.A. | B.A. | Chiapas and Mexico Map

Formative Research on Gender, Elder Health and Care in Chiapas, Mexico
Doctoral dissertation for the Ph.D. in Anthropology
with Medical Anthropology & Gender Concentrations
Department of Anthropology, University of Arizona
Thesis advisor & dissertation committee chair: Mark A. Nichter
Namino Glantz, 2007


In contrast to developed and developing countries (including Mexico as a whole) where older women outlive and outnumber older men, Chiapas, Mexico is unusual in having an elder population (aged 50+) in which women are outlived and outnumbered by men. I hypothesize that, compared to elder Chiapanecan men and their national female cohort, elder Chiapanecan women face more morbidity, receive less and/or poorer quality care, and shoulder more elder care responsibility, resulting in their precarious health status. Elder care research is urgent in Mexico – especially in the long-marginalized state of Chiapas – given rapid demographic and epidemiological transition; widespread health disparity; an inefficient and non-universal health care system; low living standards and pronounced economic inequality; structural poverty; a fragile sociopolitical context; and rapidly evolving notions of gender- and generation-based entitlement.


Harness gender-sensitive medical anthropology to understand perceptions and experiences of health and health care among older adults in Comitán, Chiapas, Mexico to facilitate locally-initiated efforts promoting elder health via community-congruent intervention.

Theoretical Axes

  • Feminist age theory
  • Household production of health model
  • Departure from androcentric, medico-centric, and ethnocentric elder health research traditions
  • Importance of applied implications


Original fieldwork in Comitan, Chiapas, involving a multiple actors via a variety of participatory methods:

  1. Inter-institutional elder health conference
  2. Elder health survey
  3. Interviews with elders and (in)formal care providers
  4. Strategic meeting
  5. Independent working group
  6. Ongoing, iterative collaboration between researcher and working group

Presentations of Findings

  • Methods: public, participatory anthropology methods engaging multiple stakeholders
  • Context: Comitán, Chiapas, Mexico. Overview of participating elders, caretakers, and service providers
  • Findings: Health problems and care, contrasting:
    • male/female experiences
    • patient/provider perspectives
    • local/national dynamics
  • Brief case descriptions of select informants to illustrate aging, health, gender interaction
  • Discussion
    • Local biologics and cultures of aging
    • Entitlement and social suffering of elders, and impact of/on other household members
    • Emergent social epidemiology and gender inequality
    • Community response to research findings and recommendations for policy and planning

Institutional Support

  • Comitán Center for Health Research
  • Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research
  • Woodrow-Wilson Johnson & Johnson National Fellowship Foundation
  • University of Arizona

Extended Dissertation Summary
Glantz PhD Summary PDF

Dissertation available upon request:

M.A. | B.A. | Chiapas and Mexico Map