Cultural Medicine and Health – definitions
In my work, cultural health is defined at a level consistent with that of community health or public health, and cultural medicine is the total sum of practices engaged by the people in a particular cultural setting. On my pages pertaining to Managed Care, I introduce many examples of these underlying details about cultural medicine by addressing the forms of providers, forms of health care deliveries, and forms of lifestyle and related diagnoses that specific cultures will display within U.S. health care settings.
Cultural medicine is much more than just another term for medical anthropology or ethnomedicine. With regard to research in medical anthropology and ethnomedicine/ethnopharmacology, cultural health may be considered similar to these fields, but in each case, the terms cultural medicine and cultural health have much broader meanings since the view of Cultural Medicine and Health is produced on behalf of an interactive regular, western, allopathic health care system alongside the cultural traditions that have been so much at risk of extinction in recent decades.
Cultural Health includes the interpretation of health based on traditional teachings along with that of the current health care system. In particular, it includes of review of how the major health care agency at large is attempting to provide the best health care for a people of a particular cultural background or descent without eliminating or not totally adhering to standards that exist regarding their work and its purpose. Whereas medical anthropologists tend to analyze cultural practices in medicine within primarily that culture’s natural setting, with minimal “western influence” or influence from whatever basic medical is out there and being compared to the study group.
Cultural Medicine is the full view of the medicine being practiced within a cultural setting. In the US this usually includes a mixture of cultural traditions with western medical or allopathic traditions, but sometimes the former prevails, like in the heart of the Ozark mountains or Adirondacks where few people trained as MDs reside, or in the poorest rural settings of the country where the closest home is 10 miles away and the closest doctor more than twice that distance, with barely a hospital available for use anywhere within 50 miles of the local homesteads.
Cultural Medicine and Health also look at medicine as it is practiced outside the immediately US boundaries, but close enough geographically or through economical-trade relationships to have some impact on the American culture and the ways in which cultures similar to the foreign one being discussed exist within the US setting. An example of this is a close look at Cuban medicine, and how the interactions between the US and Cuba have provided us with important insights into human and governmental behaviors which are public or community health related. Some work on Laotian and Vietnamese medicine falls into this category of reviews, as do the practices of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the up and coming increase in popularity of will soon become a very controversial practice of medicine–Unaniism.
Right now, Unaniism is potentially controversial because it is a form of practice that was maintained in Iran and Iraq and parts of India, and due to in-migration patterns has introduced people and families into the United States communities and health care system that follow a health care practice very much linked to Islamic traditions and culture. Unaniism is this interesting blend of three traditions in medicine: a) western Hippocratic tradition and philosophy, the starting point of western European and United States medicine, b) Islamic-Middle Eastern materia medica traditions and pharmacognostic philosophies, and c) a unique philosophy of mental health related diseases and related quality of life issues that focus upon a philosophy that Muslims themselves consider to be very homeopathic like in nature and beliefs. Added to these physical and psychological medicine faiths and philosophies in Unani culture are the interesting remains of other very Middle Eastern traditions, including alchemical traditions, cosmic-astrophysical philosophy, and mysticism.