Alumni Research

January 30, 2018 at 10:00 am

Tatarek, Alumni Present on Understanding Historical Death Records in Athens County

Dr. Nancy Tatarek in her office

Dr. Nancy Tatarek

Dr. Nancy Tatarek, Associate Professor of Anthropology, presented a paper she co-authored with Ohio University alumni Alison Harper ’19, Abigail Guerra ’18 and Dorothy E. Dean titled “Understanding Historical Death Records: A Case Study from Ohio” at the November meeting of the Social Science History Association.

She also served on two committee panels: SSHA Publications and Network Representatives.

Tatarek also co-authored an article on “The Effects of Distance on Community Health and Chagas Disease” with Mario Grijalva, Professor of Biomedical Sciences with Heritage College of Medicine, and Sociology-Criminology and Anthropology alum Steven Rhue ’14 ’22MPH, who is now a graduate student. Rhue presented the research at the meeting.

The Social Science History Association is an interdisciplinary organization that publishes Social Science History, organizes an annual conference, supports graduate student travel to the conference, and awards book prizes.

With scholars from history, economics, sociology, demography, anthropology, and other social sciences, the association brings together scholars in thematic networks where they can explore common questions.

Abstract for Understanding Historical Death Records: A Case Study from Ohio: Demographers, historians and anthropologists all utilize death records to study historical population mortality. While often the only way to such questions, researchers face a multitude of issues when analyzing death records. Questions of diagnoses, temporal trends in historical medicine and classification all complicate mortality studies. This paper discusses efforts to understand death records from the late 19th and early 20th century in Athens County, Ohio. We examine over 10,000 death records and death certificates between 1867 and 1919. Death registration began in 1867 in Ohio, and deaths were reported to the county seat. In addition to causes of death, the early records contain a classification system. The first goal of this research is to more completely understand the historical context in which these mortality records were created. In order to accomplish this we describe our research into the status of the Athens County records system, physician training, and local medical personnel. We also examine trends in the raw causes of death to examine temporal changes in mortality. Second, this paper describes our efforts to construct a functional mortality coding system and the methodological issues we encountered during this process. A final goal of this research is to better understand the terminology and the overall health implications of mortality diagnoses. For this purpose, we draw on the specialized training of a forensic pathologist to provide a modern medical perspective for these death records. We combine the insights and analyses provided with the contextual and statistical results to present a holistic view of Athens County mortality across a 50 year time span.

Abstract for The Effects of Distance on Community Health and Chagas Disease: Southern Ecuador is burdened by Chagas disease, a parasitic disease of poverty endemic to Latin America, estimated to infect over 200,000 Ecuadorians. In addition to Chagas, lifestyle-related diseases including other parasitic and chronic issues such as diabetes, hypertension, and respiratory problems constitute major health concerns in the area. While poverty is a recognized force in these health problems, factors of distance involved in accessing medical care require exploration. This research presents an exploratory study in southern Ecuador that examines the impact of how distance affects three rural communities, in Loja province, access to health and its implications for Chagas disease and the health of the communities.


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