Monday, March 23, 2015

Traditional, western, or another path?

Which path should I take to treat an illness, “taking prescription medication, following traditional practices such as shamanism, listening to a homeopath, visiting an acupuncturist or bone setter (chiropractor), or using technique based on humoral medicine?” Often times in our society, one’s culture defines the “correct” path to treat an illness. There seems to be little incorporation of the different practices in order to achieve desired results. For example, a typical “western” doctor prescribing medicine usually would not also advise a patient to go to a sukkiah to heal his or her spirit; there is only one “right” path.

If someone wishes to take different approaches to healing a sickness, he or she has to actively seek out both approaches and confirm whatever treatment prescribed does not interfere or cause side effects with the other treatment. I know for me, this extra work greatly reduces my desire to use two different methods. Upon this realization, I began to question why this was the case and whether or not it was possible for two medicinal techniques to coexist.

I discovered my answer when we took our visit to the EBAIS in Coto Brus. The district of Coto Brus has a high population of Ngobe tribe who immigrate from Panama and non-indigenous peoples as well. In order to address both populations, this EBAIS has a shaman and a “western” medical doctor. As well, the buildings are set up in cone shapes and look almost identical to the houses the Ngobe tribes reside. Not only does it have a shaman and western doctor, but it also has a kitchen where concepts such as preventative care can be practiced. Finally, resources for midwives to help give births are provided. It is the only one of its kind. All of these facets of the EBAIS work together to encourage the public to be able to choose which cure or health care practice he or she prefers to use. Due to this systematic set up, there have been declines in the number of hospitalizations and a reduction in infant and mortality rate in the Ngobe community. As well, it has allowed a more amiable relationship between leaders of different cultural beliefs understanding perspectives from the others’ culture.

Making multiple medicinal paths easily available to patients gives patients the power to choose which or both practices he or she prefers. It also makes it easier for a patient to learn more about a different practice if he or she has been curious to test it out.

This EBAIS helped answer my question; it is possible for two methods of treating medicine to coexist. Hopefully in the future the United States can incorporate some type of healthcare system in which the patients do not have to choose only one “right” medicinal path.

Morgan Drew

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