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Localizing resource insecurities: A biocultural perspective on water and wellbeing

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Abstract A biocultural approach provides an emerging framework for clarifying the mechanisms that connect water security to human health and wellbeing. Five basic tenets of the biocultural approach are outlined: The focus on the local, the centrality of culture, the notion of embodied disadvantage, a concern with proximate mechanisms as a means to test theorized pathways, and recognition of intersecting and potentially amplified (syndemic) risks. From a review of both new and dispersed biocultural literature on household water, four key themes emerge: (a) individual vulnerabilities to the biological effects of water insecurity are shaped by cultural practices; (b) water insecurity is a powerful biocultural stressor on mental health; (c) water insecurity mediates between low power and worse health within communities, and through multiple mechanisms; (d) the household is a nexus for food–water interactions, each likely worsening each other and health through syndemic relationships. This sets an agenda for a biocultural approach to the household as a localizing nexus for manifesting the very human costs to mental and physical health of managing under conditions of extreme household resource insecurity. This article is categorized under: Engineering of Water > Planning Water Human Water > Water Governance Human Water > Water as Imagined and Represented
A basic biocultural model that identifies pathways linking environments, cultural and biological domains, using water insecurity examples (Adapted from Zuckerman and Martin (2016))
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Reported worry about water and food in 6,691 households in 27 local community sites (Adapted from Brewis et al. (2020))

[Correction added on 03 May 2020, after first online publication: Figure 4 image has been updated.]

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A biocultural model of the household water insecurity, including in interaction with food insecurity
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A basic syndemic model relevant to household food and water insecurity interactions (Adapted from Singer et al. (2017))
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Human Water > Water as Imagined and Represented
Human Water > Water Governance
Engineering Water > Planning Water

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