Medical Pluralism

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Despite being very different countries, Africa and Australia share a phenomenon termed medical pluralism. This form of health care is indeed pluralistic as it “consists of the totality of medical subsystems that coexist in a cooperative or competitive relationship with one another” (Baer 2004, p. 109). Although medical pluralism is not recent by any means, it is still used differently in various cultures around the globe. This essay will first describe the array of healthcare strategies that form different cultures’ pluralistic health care systems and how these cultures choose which path to take. As well, both the advantages and disadvantages to this approach will be explored through select case studies. Finally, a glimpse of issues regarding the future of medical pluralism in Australia will be looked at. According to both Baer (2004) and Quinlain (2011), anthropologists divide treatment options into three categories: the professional sector, the popular sector, and the folk sector. The professional sector, or rather biomedicine or even western medicine, includes those that obtain formal training. This form of treatment was established in the 1900’s based on scientific reasoning with an emphasis on pathogens. Even though biomedicine has become more dominant over the other categories in industrialized societies with large bureaucracies and legal systems (Quinlain 2011, p. 394), popular medicine, or natural medicine has been around for the past 10,000 years (Schwager 2012). Approximately 70-90% of health care takes place in popular medicine, making it the most commonly used (Quinlain 2011, p. 394). This broad range of treatment can take on the form of special diets, over the counter drugs, herbs and other home remedies. Popular medicine is different than that of the folk sector, which includes those individuals that obtain talents, information passed down from ancestors and special training. Baer (2004) asserts that the different medical systems are placed into a...
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