Healing Traditions: Alternative Medicine and the Health Professions

By Bonnie Blair O’Connor | Go to book overview

Exercise: Taking a Health
Beliefs History
Many patients use preventive, health maintenance, and treatment measures that fall outside of the conventional health care system. Many hold models of health, illness, and care that are not congruent with the conventional medical model. Patients’ health belief systems may derive from their culture of ancestry or group identity, or they may have been discovered and adopted from a variety of other sources. The reasons that people have for holding quite different notions of health, illness, and treatment from those represented in the medical model vary widely. They include (to cite only a few examples):
acceptance as part of an ethnic or religious cultural heritage (e.g., Pennsylvania German powwowing or “sympathy healing,” or the mandates of any religion);
lifestyle factors adopted to harmonize with a consciously selected philosophical stance (e.g., a macrobiotic or natural foods diet or a preference for naturally derived medicines);
efforts to multiply therapeutic options in the face of a particular illness (e.g., cancer, HIV/AIDS, chronic fatigue, MS, chronic pain syndromes, common colds, migraine);
dissatisfaction with results or treatments obtained from the conventional biomedical system (e.g., drugs with undesirable side effects, treatments that are invasive or extremely unpleasant, treatments that do not appreciably ameliorate the illness or improve quality of life).

A review of even this brief list should make it apparent that health beliefs and values that differ significantly from those of conventional biomedicine are by no means confined to particular ethnic or denominational groups. In fact, they are not necessarily even more common in

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