Understanding Folklore and Medicine: How Knowledge of Medical Legends, Belief, and Folk Healing Systems Can Improve the Study of Health, Public Outreach, and the Treatment of Patients
“Vaccine hesitancy” or the choice to decline a vaccine has come to the forefront of public discussion of the Covid-19 pandemic since the major rollout of Covid vaccines in early 2021. “Misinformation spreads faster than the virus” one BBC report proclaimed (June 26, 2021); “tracking COVID-19 vaccine misinformation in real-time and engaging with social media to disseminate correct information could help safeguard the public against misinformation,” concluded a recent study published in PLOS One (Islam et. al 2021). Yet folklorists, or scholars who study traditional or informal cultures, have long studied the relationship between storytelling, rumor, folk belief, and folk medical practices that contribute to these kinds of disconnects between medical and public health professionals and the public at-large. Folklorists have explored culturally specific notions of health, the body, and disease, the vernacular perception of disease risk, and the stories people tell about their experiences with medical personnel and governmental entities, all of which might inform choices about when and how to seek treatment or prevention for illness. This roundtable discussion for medical and public health professionals, led by a panel of distinguished scholars of folk medicine, will provide an opportunity to discuss and understand how a working knowledge of folk culture can support and enhance the study of disease and health and the treatment of patients. This online roundtable is part of Cultural Health: A Forum on Folk Medical Systems, an event series organized in conjunction with the 133rd annual meeting of the American Folklore Society, which will be held in Harrisburg from October 18-23, 2021. The forum is supported by the Humanities Institute at Penn State, the Department of Humanities at Penn State Hershey College of Medicine, and the School of Humanities at Penn State Harrisburg.