Healing Traditions

Healing Traditions: Alternative Medicine and the Health Professions

Bonnie Blair O’Connor
Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 288
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Healing Traditions
    Book Description:

    The popularity and practice of alternative medicine continues to expand at astonishing rates. In Healing Traditions, Bonnie Blair O'Connor considers the conflicts that arise between the values and assumptions of Western, scientific medicine and those of unconventional health systems. Providing in-depth examples of the importance and benefits of alternative health practices-including the extraordinarily extensive and sophisticated HIV/AIDS alternative therapies movement-O'Connor identifies ways to integrate alternative strategies with orthodox medical treatments in order to ensure the best possible care for patients. In spite of the long-standing prediction that, as science and medicine progressed-and education became more generally available-unconventional systems would die out, they have persisted with undiminished vitality. They have, in fact, experienced a reinvigoration and expansion during the last fifteen to twenty years. In the United States, this renewal is fueled by people representing a wide cross-section of American society, and most of them also use conventional medicine. This eclecticism can result in conflicts between the values and assumptions of Western, scientific medicine and those of unconventional health systems. O'Connor demonstrates the importance of understanding how various belief systems interact and how this interaction affects health care. She argues that through neutral observation and thorough description of health belief systems it is possible to gain an understanding of those systems, to identify likely points of conflict among systems-especially conflicts that may occur in conventional care settings-and to intervene in ways that ensure the best possible care for patients.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0053-9
    Subjects: Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xxiv)

    In addition to conventional Western medicine, there are a great number and variety of systems of health belief and practice active in the United States today. Far from dying out in the face of advances in scientific medicine, many nonbiomedical health belief systems are growing in popularity. Included among these are both long-standing traditional systems (often referred to as “folk medicine”) and newer developments and syncretisms such as the many approaches grouped together under the rubrics of holistic health or New Age healing (sometimes referred to as “popular medicine”). I refer to this entire range of folk and popular healing...

  6. Chapter 1 Defining and Understanding Health Belief Systems
    (pp. 1-34)

    Throughout this century and even before, there has been a general assumption—even a conviction—in the health professions and in academia that folk and popular systems of health beliefs and practices would inevitably decline in modern and industrialized societies, falling away before the forces of modernization and progress to be replaced by modern, Western medicine. Yet this has not been the case. Non-biomedical healing systems have persisted steadily alongside the burgeoning medical establishment: some waxing and waning in cycles, some holding constant, and some continually gaining in popularity among widening and diversifying circles of proponents. In the past two...

  7. Chapter 2 Critical Approaches to Literature and Theories
    (pp. 35-79)

    To arrive at any sort of comprehensive understanding of vernacular health belief systems it is necessary to be able to connect them with a theoretical understanding of belief in general, as well as with an understanding of culture and the cultural frameworks with which all belief systems are interconnected. Belief and behavior are strongly culturally shaped, and definitions of health and illness are cultural products. The most productive approach to vernacular healing systems is necessarily an interdisciplinary effort, for belief and behavior are complex phenomena, and all explanations of complex phenomena are partial accounts. An interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary approach provides...

  8. Chapter 3 Hmong Cultural Values, Biomedicine, and Chronic Liver Disease
    (pp. 80-108)

    In the past decade, scholars of many disciplines concerned with health care in complex societies have paid increasing attention to the importance of matters of culture and worldview in health care delivery. The education and training of health professionals in the United States, however, does not yet incorporate much of this information or routinely teach the skills for evaluating and responding to significant differences in worldview between patients and providers. As a result, many providers remain unaware of the extent to which such differences can affect clinical interaction and outcomes, and are badly hampered in cross-cultural encounters. The case history...

  9. Chapter 4 Vernacular Health Care Responses to HIV and AIDS
    (pp. 109-160)

    Sicknesses that do not respond well to conventional medical care, or for which few conventional treatment options exist, frequently motivate people to develop purposive self-care routines and to explore a range of forms of potential treatment. Serious illnesses with poor prognoses may especially quickly lead people to expand their health care strategies beyond the bounds of conventional medicine, in an effort to multiply their therapeutic options. Such actions may be undertaken regardless of prior knowledge of or exposure to other treatment systems (Hufford 1988a), and indeed often include periods of research and concerted inquiry aimed at discovering options of which...

  10. Chapter 5 Implications for the Health Professions
    (pp. 161-196)

    The immediate message of the foregoing chapters is that nonbiomedical health belief systems are alive and well; that they are in very common use by all kinds of people; and that health professionals should ask patients about them and expect to find them among their patients’ healing resources. The larger message this phenomenon evokes is that patients are authoritative agents of their own health care,¹ and this social fact needs to be recognized and taken seriously by health professionals. Patients evaluate health care options in a range often much broader in scope than that of the conventional medical system. They...

  11. Appendix: Practical Tools
    (pp. 197-224)
  12. Glossary
    (pp. 225-234)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 235-280)
  14. Index
    (pp. 281-288)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 289-291)