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Roads to Health in Developing Countries: Understanding the Intersection of Culture and Healing

  • Background: The most important attribute to which all human beings aspire is good health because it enables us to undertake different forms of activities of daily living. The emergence of scientific knowledge in Western societies has enabled scientists to explore and define several parameters of health by drawing boundaries around factors that are known to influence the attainment of good health. For example, the World Health Organization defined health by taking physical and psychological factors into consideration. Their definition of health also included a caveat that says, “not merely the absence of sickness.” This definition has guided scientists and health care providers in the Western world in the development of health care programs in non-Western societies. Objective: However, ethnomedical beliefs about the cause(s) of illness have given rise to alternative theories of health, sickness, and treatment approaches in the developing world. Thus, there is another side to the story. Method: Much of the population in developing countries lives in rural settings where the knowledge of health, sickness, and care has evolved over centuries of practice and experience. The definition of health in these settings tends to orient toward cultural beliefs, traditional practices, and social relationships. Invariably, whereas biomedicine is the dominant medical system in Western societies, traditional medicine — or ethno-medicine — is often the first port of call for patients in developing countries. Results: The 2 medical systems represent, and are influenced by, the cultural environment in which they exist. On one hand, biomedicine is very effective in the treatment of objective, measurable disease conditions. On the other hand, ethnomedicine is effective in the management of illness conditions or the experience of disease states. Nevertheless, an attempt to supplant 1 system of care with another from a different cultural environment could pose enormous challenges in non-Western societies. Conclusion: In general, we, as human beings, are guided in our health care decisions by past experiences, family and friends, social networks, cultural beliefs, customs, tradition, professional knowledge, and intuition. No medical system has been shown to address all of these elements; hence, the need for collaboration, acceptance, and partnership between all systems of care in cultural communities. In developing countries, the roads to health are incomplete without an examination of the intersection of culture and healing. Perhaps mutual exclusiveness rather inclusiveness of these 2 dominant health systems is the greatest obstacle to health in developing countries.

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Author:Sam C. IbenemeORCiD, A. Ezuma, Gerhard FortwengelORCiDGND
DOI original:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.curtheres.2017.03.001
Parent Title (English):Current Therapeutic Research
Document Type:Article
Year of Completion:2017
Release Date:2017/12/14
Tag:belief; biomedicine; culture; developing countries; ethnomedicine; healing; roads to health
First Page:13
Last Page:18
Link to catalogue:1752441508
Institutes:Fakultät III - Medien, Information und Design
DDC classes:610 Medizin, Gesundheit
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - CC BY-NC-ND - Namensnennung - Nicht kommerziell - Keine Bearbeitungen 4.0 International