Western and Traditional Healthcare

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Healthcare professionals have been trying to establish western healthcare in Haiti due to the increasing number of Haitians being infected by AIDS. However, Haitians choose to see voodoo priests instead of western medical doctors because religion is very important to them and voodoo priests provide the spiritual healing they seek. The consequence of western doctors not understanding the importance of voodoo religion in the treatment process is the biggest deterrent to Haitians accepting western healthcare. Instead of trying to make Haitians change their beliefs, healthcare professionals should work with voodoo priests to increase AIDS awareness. Undoubtedly, their role as a trusted spiritual advisor and healer would be used to influence Haitian acceptance of western healthcare. Voodoun or Voodoo is a spiritual healing tradition in Haiti, which combines Catholicism and African practices. The slave and ex-slave communities in colonial Caribbean used voodoo practices and folk medicine to solve their health and mental health problems; they passed this knowledge down to future generations. Voodooists also believe in animism, the view that everything in the world is one, one source, one mind and will, as well as the world is full of spiritual entities. They also relied on knowledge of herbs and other medicines to manage their healthcare (Handley & Jacoby, 2005). Voodoo Priests use traditional healing methods to treat the physical or psychological illness of a client. They interpret illness in a cultural context that Haitians understand, thus, they can provide individualized treatments that is unique to the clients needs. Voodoo priests understand that Haitian culture is deeply rooted in spiritually and religion. The main method of treatment voodoo priests use to attend to their clients needs is direct spiritual intervention. According to Moodley and Sutherland (2010), Voodoo is a system that integrates the natural and the supernatural world. Indeed, Haitians believe that illnesses are caused by spells, spirits and demons, and their illnesses represent a punishment for wrongful deeds. They believe strongly in the power of Voodoo to solve their physical and psychological ailments; they perform a Voodoo ritual that takes the form of dancing, praying and offering gifts to gain forgiveness from the sprits. “Healing and transformations are facilitated by the transmission of supernatural powers from the spirits of the ancestors to help them “to come into harmony with problem causing spirits, to forgive them, and in doing so regulate emotions, lifestyles, physical complaints and destiny”. (Moodley & Sutherland, 2009, p.18)

Traditional healing has been shown to have several benefits including psychological relief from illnesses and reduced anxiety through an unquestioned belief in the powers of their healer. Voodoo priests are acknowledged in their communities as exceptional healers because they possess special insight, awareness, knowledge and skills that comes from knowledge and understanding of the Caribbean culture. In Haiti, western healthcare workers are viewed as being incompetent due to their inability in meeting the religious needs of the client. They do not use spiritual healing methods in their diagnoses and treatment of the client’s illness. According to Moodley and Bertrand (2011), it is crucial for western doctors and psychotherapists to understand traditional healing approaches and to find new ways to be therapeutic without imposing their beliefs on clients who are socialized in spiritually oriented societies. The ignorance of western doctors is a major deterrent to Haitian’s accepting western healthcare practices. “Caribbean communities follow traditional healing practices which they deem to be superior to Western Healthcare because many see the Western healthcare practices as culturally insensitive and racist”. (Moodley & Bertrand, 2011, P.267)

The health practitioner’s lack of cultural awareness...
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