PAULA S. TALLMAN, then a graduate student at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, was awarded funding in October 2012 to aid research on 'Stress, Health, and Physiological Functioning in the Awajún of the Peruvian Amazon,' supervised by Dr. Thomas W. McDade. The Awajún are an Amerindian group living in the northern highland rainforest of the Peruvian Amazon. This dissertation employed a critical biocultural approach and methods to explore the relationship between cultural changes, stress, and biological functioning in an Awajún community. Ethnographic research revealed that individuals are most stressed by lacking economic resources to cover basic needs and the costs of education. The importance of education is deeply embedded in the cultural fabric of Awajún communities as the Summer Institute of Linguistics (a US based evangelical and linguistic organization) and the Peruvian government worked extensively in the region over the last 50 years to promote education and Spanish language use as a path out of poverty. In a sample of 220 individuals (18-65 yrs. of age), multivariate linear and logistic regression analyses showed that individuals with more education have lower blood pressure (B = -1.41, p = 0.004) and individuals who reported speaking Spanish as their primary language had lower Epstein-Barr Virus antibodies (OR =0.33, p = 0.029), indicating that they have 'better' immune system functioning. These results demonstrate that events in the broader cultural and political economic sphere can 'get under the skin' to influence cardiovascular and immune system functioning.
Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
Tallman, Paula Skye, Northwestern U., Evanston, IL - To aid research on 'Stress, Health, and Physiological Functioning in the Awajun of the Peruvian Amazon' supervised by Dr. Thomas W. McDade