Research partner profile: Dr. Alexandra Alvergne at Oxford
Name: Dr. Alexandra Alvergne
Location: University of Oxford, United Kingdom
Profession: Associate Professor in Biocultural Anthropology
Degree: PhD in Human Evolutionary Biology and Ecology
About: Dr. Alexandra Alvergne is on a mission to help people better understand their bodies.
Alex wants to shift from a general medicalization of female health to a more holistic, ecological and evolutionary perspective. So what exactly does that mean? Currently, the medical and health industries are treating symptoms rather than considering the root of various medical conditions and problems.
Dr. Alvergne wants to take a broader look at treatment, and thinks we need to shift from a rigid "normal" vs. "pathological" perspective to a fluid ecological approach that takes into consideration diversity and change.
An ecological perspective on care and prevention would look at social, cultural, economic, political, nutritional, (epi)genetic and microbial factors. It would also avoid looking at female health through a lens that only focuses on reproductive function.
Goal: Dr. Alvergne wants to see what we can learn by researching the natural evolution and variation in menstrual cycles. Every person and cycle is different, and we can learn a lot from variation rather than automatically prescribing a pill or a fix.
She would also like to help people discover they have a sexually transmitted infection sooner, so they can get treatment as soon as possible.
How: Dr. Alvergne thinks that academia and research can move faster by partnering with businesses and focusing on user-led research.
Although Alex would like to move away from a medicalization of female health, she acknowledges that we need pharmaceutical companies. It's easy to point fingers at big pharma because in reality, they have strong economic interests. However, if they don't make money, they won't survive. Simple as that. The question is how we can direct pharmaceutical companies in a more inclusive and open direction that covers aspects of diversity. Alex thinks they could benefit from building links with nonprofits and taking a deeper look into medical anthropology.
Current research: Human ecology and fertility, contraception adoption & discontinuation, vaccination decision making
Past research: Hormonal birth control and mate choice, contraceptive uptake
Connect with Dr. Alvergne and get updates on her research. Follow her on Twitter.