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First Nations Health Authority Essay Sample

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First Nations Health Authority Essay Sample

Traditional healing/Traditional medicine as defined by WHO – “It is the sum total of the knowledge, skill and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness”. Sometimes, the terms, complementary medicine or alternative medicine are used interchangeably with traditional medicine in different countries.

In simple terms, addressing the physical and mental well being of the individual, treatment diagnosis or prevention of illness by using a wide array of approaches, knowledge and belief systems, use of biotic and abiotic materials, spiritual therapies, manual methods and exercises either in isolation or in combination is the core of traditional healing. According to WHO, it has been estimated that “about 80% of the population in developing countries depends on traditional medicine for their Primary Health Care needs”. (In the countries of WHO – African region: 60-70%)

There are various factors that influence the use of traditional healing as a primary source, both in terms of affordability and accessibility apart from other factors like cultural beliefs, stigma associated with orthodox or allopathic medical practice, as well as the way it blends with the socio-cultural aspects of people’s lives.

This brings us to understand the way traditional healing and the practitioners (traditional healers) are perceived across the world and the historical context. According to the traditional beliefs in most of the ancient cultures across the world, the human being is represented as a whole being with physical, spiritual, emotional, moral and social aspects existing in dynamic interactional patterns, which therefore creates a need to approach the illness in a holistic manner rather than treating only one or two aspects of the individual. As a means of thriving and progressing or evolving through the generations, humans have always tried to find ways of fighting illnesses and diseases with various forms of healing practices and methods.

In due course of time, the knowledge and skills have been limited to particular groups of individuals or communities or specific selected individuals of the group which eventually might have led to the development of traditional healers who are considered to have expertise in dealing with various physical, mental and spiritual issues of the people. Traditional African medicine is an alternative medicine discipline involving indigenous herbalism and African spirituality, typically involving diviners, midwives, and herbalists.

In the Ugandan context, the traditional methods had their roots from the ancient beliefs in a spirit world, beyond the one they could see, with occupants at various levels. These beliefs featured strongly both in the people’s personal lives as well as matters in state. The people believe that the higher spirit or God, the guardians and their ancestors have significant influence on their lives, health and well-being as well as harmony within the nature and the affairs of the state.

These beliefs along with the traditional use of available herbs for addressing the physical issues that arise either as standalone conditions or because of underlying psychological or mental illnesses, or socio-cultural issues make one infer that traditional healing practices using spiritualism and herbalism have very great influence on the modern medical treatments for both bodily discomforts and ailments as well as psychotherapeutic approaches for mental health issues.

Although the traditional healers, the healing methods and cultural practices have significant role and position in the peoples affairs, and their physical and psychological well-being, through various herbs, minerals, and other items of plant or animal origin, shrines (ekiggwa), the priests or priestess, (the Mandwa), sacred drums and ceremonial objects, and the rituals and practices, the imported religions like Christianity, Islam etc.,and political systems by the British have shown profound impact on the cohesiveness and function of the state and also on the conduct of the religious and political leaders. This eventually led to the spread of more Westernized practices both in terms of approaches to healing or treatments, methods, and advocacy, acceptance or approval by the governing bodies which resulted in moving away from the traditional practices of healing to more modernized or Westernized medical treatments for various health conditions.

This is also attributed to the fact that most of the traditional knowledge of healing and practices are passed down to specific selected individuals in the community belonging to a specific lineage by verbal means rather than through well documented methods most often through ritualistic procedures conducted in secrecy. Lack of evidence based practices and documentation has made the mainstream treatment approaches to neglect the role of traditional healers and their practices in treating the psychopathological conditions.

Statistics on Uganda’s religious breakdown vary, but the U.S State Department’s 2014 International Religious Freedom Report notes that the country is 85 percent Christian and 12 percent Muslim. The remaining 3 percent is a mix of religions, including “indigenous beliefs”. Although, the majority of people do mention that as much as they follow the religions of Christianity or Islam or any other that was imported, they still have their roots in their traditional African religion and the rituals and do practice them.

Different communities across the world have used and are still using traditional, complementary or alternate medicine to treat different psychological or physical conditions, with some countries having well established institutes to train and equip anyone who is interested to pursue it as a career thus giving importance to the ancestral knowledge and skills, as well as remove the misconceptions spread by the western medicine about the traditional healing methods and the practitioners as being pagan or even satanic.

Although traditional healers and modern medicine practitioners have their own ways of working to treat the psychopathological conditions, both of them have their own positives and negatives when it comes to the way the methods work, or the approach to the problem, or the way they interact with the patients, and the efficacy, accessibility, reliability and affordability aspects of the treatment and management.

odern medicine practitioners have an advantage when it comes to evidence based practices, documentation, on-going research and developments and technical advancements in the field. Although the humanistic aspect of treatment, for example, modern medicine treats the patient as an individual and the physical or psychological illness as a condition on its own with minor emphasis on the family, community and the cultural influence on the current illness. As well as, the time and personal or empathic understanding and connection with the patient is relatively difficult with regards to the highly competitive and demanding job roles the medical practitioners have to play in the current time.

raditional healers on the other hand have minimal back up in terms of evidence based practices, or documentation or any form of technical advancements. But the greatest advantage they have is of the experience and insight regarding the illness or the condition, the treatment methods and the material, wisdom from ancestors, and most importantly the belief system in the community which actually plays a major role in the healing process. Along with that the traditional healer also has an advantage of having an understanding of the patient’s condition with respect to the immediate environment, community, the inter personal or socio cultural dynamics which actually play a crucial role in the psychotherapeutic process. The patients will have the comfort of being heard, both with respect to the time that they can be allotted, as well as the empathic point of view, and the support from the community and family with a minimal negative effect of stigma.

Another advantage is of the availability, and accessibility of the traditional healer as long as they are in the rural areas; but also the people living in urban areas who seek help from traditional healers have the belief that they will be in safe hands as long as they go back to their village or to their traditional priest who can be in a better position to judge or take reasonable decision regarding the illness. The personal care attached to the help and guidance from traditional healers particularly in the case of psychological illnesses, and the trust and belief one has on the ancient wisdom and the ancestral support is what that puts traditional healers at an advantage.

The comfort levels of the patient and the reliability issues play a major role in the healing process when it comes to the psychotherapeutic point of view; which in modern psychotherapy practice takes time to build that trust, confidence in the practitioner, the belief systems and the apprehensions about the psychotherapeutic methods employed whether it is the use of biological, chemical/physical treatment methods or scientifically proven psychological approaches, methods and techniques.

Uganda, most of it being an agricultural based country with majority of people living in the rural areas, as well as the people living in urban areas having their cultivable lands or elders living in the rural areas, most of them find it more comfortable and prefer to reach out to each other at a level where it connects their families and communities. Here comes the traditional practices, cultural roots and values, customs and traditions, which serve as the connecting thread to the people wherever they live, be it rural area or urban area or even the ones who live in other countries for any reasons. This makes it obvious why people from any part of the world, who are living in the developing countries in particular, prefer to keep themselves connected to their traditional backgrounds, customs and traditions, practices and cultural expectations etc..

This gives them a sense of belonging and also gives them a sense of security of being taken care of or to fall back upon, in times of distress or need. Most of the times, when there is a physical ailment, people resort to the Western medicine, because of its immediate effects of bringing down the unpleasant body affects the ailment brings; this partially is because of the fact that modern medical practices and psychotherapeutic approaches are well documented and efficacy can be measured using statistical methods and analytical methods. Whereas traditional healers, although few of them keep account of whom they have served or treated, not much documentation is being put in place. Most of the knowledge and wisdom about the traditional healing methods is passed through generations mostly by the elders in the family to the more competent ones.

An aspect of the spiritual ability to have connections with the spirit world is also being considered as an important prerequisite to be a traditional healer along with the necessary knowledge and skills to use various herbs and potions and other abiotic substances for the treatment of psychological illnesses. This puts the traditional healers in a position where, although their work in terms of the herbal remedies can be documented and proven scientifically, the spiritual part of the healing process is the difficult one to document or to prove with scientific evidence.

Thus making the whole reliability of the traditional healers work depend upon the outcome of the treatment; which in the case of psychological illnesses, is difficult to follow up for the fact that the conditions take time to improve, remission and relapse rates variability, as well as other underlying medical conditions contributing to the illness. Most of the times the person may not be in a position to provide better validity of the treatment process, except for the outcome.

There is no documented reference point other than the healer. But still in majority of the situations in Uganda, the first point of reference for most of the illnesses, whether, psychological or physical is the traditional healer. The reasons can be many, like accessibility, affordability, trust and confidence issues, as well as the personal attention that one gets from the traditional healer. If this ancient knowledge and wisdom of traditional healing methods and practices can be applied, utilizing the spiritual connection that every human feels at the core with his own people and ancestors to the modern psychotherapeutic practices, the gap can be bridge between the traditional approaches and modern approaches.

It can serve as the best way to use the ancient knowledge and wisdom with necessary modifications, adaptations, and also an understanding about the limitations of the approaches. This makes the people approach the health professionals with an open mind, having all the options available, and not just shuttle between traditional and modern methods which actually hinder the progress of the patient and the treatment outcome.

Any society cannot survive if its cultural roots are abandoned. This makes it clear that, any aspect of the society, be it the moral, physical, social or psychological aspects that evolved with time, supported by the customs, traditions, and the cultural practices have to be taken into account when dealing with an individual. In other words, it calls for a holistic approach to treat the individual for various ailments, whether physical or psychological or both contributing to each other and incorporating the traditional healing practices in to the modern psychotherapy to ensure the optimal utilization of resources in the best interest of the individual seeking help.

WHO advocates incorporating safe and effective traditional medicine into primary health-care systems. Since the traditional healers are already a trusted source of information for health and treatment, this aspect should be taken advantage of, through provision of appropriate skills and means to identify psychological illnesses in the modern medical perspective and treat or refer to wherever necessary. The integration of traditional healers into the primary health care system can bridge the gap in the service delivery as well as the treatment outcomes in developing countries like Uganda where the knowledge, skilled and trained personnel, resources and infrastructure facilities to provide modern psychotherapy practices are still dependent to a large extent on the funding from external agencies or resource availability.

The overcrowding of referral hospitals providing services for psychological illnesses in Uganda, indicates a great need to decentralize the services, by expanding the services to the primary health centers in rural areas where majority of the population resides. This can become an effective strategy to serve a larger community when the traditional healers are made an integral part of the health care services, because of the way the natives relate to the traditional healers. The integration can be effective when the traditional healers are recognized as authorized personnel, licensed and trained on effective management techniques, thus creating a harmonious interaction between both the practices for the benefit of the individual. WHO has already taken steps to emphasize the importance of traditional medicine and its influence on the modern medicine by developing WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023, in response to the World Health Assembly resolution on traditional medicine (WHA62.13) to support its member states.

Taking this as a model, and relying on the belief that Ugandans relate to traditional healers in a more positive manner, it will be a good decision to integrate Traditional healers into the primary and national health care systems, making necessary policy changes with appropriate safety, efficacy and quality assurance guidelines and rational use of healing methods supporting the modern psychotherapy methods.

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