Tuberculosis: Misunderstanding and Stigma

DAYTON, OHIO-Over the past decade sociologist Paul Draus, Ph.D., made an interesting journey into learning about a familiar yet misunderstood disease-tuberculosis. In his new book Consumed in the City: Observing Tuberculosis at Century's End, Dr. Draus shares his personal encounters with patients and healthcare workers, and the systems they work through for treatment. Draus observes that by studying the treatment of this specific disease, our society could create a "template for the future of public health in America."

Dr. Draus explains that tuberculosis-previously known as consumption-has always carried with it a stigma, a negative social perception transmitted through pre-conceived notions or ideas concerning ethnic origins, lifestyles, and many other factors. He concludes that by studying not just the disease but also each patient and the meaning behind their everyday lives, that our healthcare organizations can find clarification to other looming health crises, such as HIV, AIDS, and other stigmatized health issues. He states, "In putting this book together, I was concerned with telling stories of individual humans and their thoughts and struggles, and of a more general predicament, faced by millions living within impoverished conditions."

In writing this, Dr. Draus says he "hopes to provide a view of an epidemic as seen from the ground floor, through the eyes of a public health worker engaged in daily interaction with the patients who suffer. Visionary physicians…like Hippocrates himself, have all sought to include the society as well as the individual in their diagnoses and prescriptions. No one can question the urgency of helping those individual human beings who are already sick, and seeking to relieve their most immediate afflictions. But if, after doing so, we fail to look up from the bottom of the cliff where the bodies pile up, we will continue to place Band-Aides on broken bones…This is one of the lessons that TB has to teach: look up the cliff, follow the causal stream to its source, and question what brings people to the edge, where illness pulls them under. TB must be seen not only as a problem in and of itself, but as an index…though we may treat the disease in isolation, we must recognize that it has its roots in soil we all share."

Paul Draus, Ph.D., is project ethnographer and research scientist in the Center for Interventions, Treatment, and Addictions Research at Wright State University School of Medicine. Dr. Draus came to Wright State University in 2002 from Grinnell College in Iowa, where he was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology and American Studies from 2000-2002. From 1993 until 2000 he served as epidemiologist for the Tuberculosis Control Program at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. He has also served as public health advisor for the Bureau of Tuberculosis Control, Department of Health, New York, NY. He holds a B.A. in English from Loyola University, an M.A. in American Studies from the University of Wyoming, and a Ph.D. in Sociology from Loyola University. As a research scientist, he is involved in the ongoing study of stimulant use in rural areas of Ohio. As a regional epidemiologist for the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring (OSAM) network, he conducts interviews and focus groups with active drug users and substance abuse service providers concerning ongoing and developing trends in illicit drug usage.

For more information, contact Public Relations.

Last edited on 12/15/2014.