Beyond Medicine. Non-Medical Methods of Treatment in Poland

By Doroszewska, Antonina | Polish Sociological Review, July 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Beyond Medicine. Non-Medical Methods of Treatment in Poland


Doroszewska, Antonina, Polish Sociological Review


Wlodzimierz Piatkowski, Beyond Medicine. Non-Medical Methods of Treatment in Poland Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2012, pp. 307. ISBN 97 83 631 621 905

In 2012, Peter Lang published a book by Wlodzimierz Pi^tkowski Beyond Medicine. Non-Medical Methods of Treatment in Poland. The author is a medical sociologist and the expert on the issues discussed in his work; he has been studying these issues for over 20 years, regularly publishing new developments and analyses in the field of non-conventional medicine.

The reviewed publication has 307 pages, and it starts with Preface by Beata Tobiasz-Adamczyk, the author'sAcknowledgements and Introduction, in which the author claims that thanks to sociological analyses of non-conventional methods of treatment it is possible improve our understanding and our research on broader social problems such as health awareness, attitudes towards health and sickness, health needs or laypeople's health behavior.

The book consists of 3 parts. The first one is a sociological analysis of non-medical treatment in Poland and other-not only European-countries. It is a sociological basis for the characteristics of folk medical systems, self-treatment and healers' activities in Poland, presented in the next parts of the publication.

In the second part, the author describes folk medical systems and self-treatment in Poland. He begins with explaining the methodological difficulties which pose problems for any researchers analyzing the phenomenon discussed. Next, he presents the social framework of self-treatment and folk medical systems in the late 19th and early 20th century. Provides characteristics of rural people's health condition, typical behavior during illness and its conditioning (e.g. political, economic, cultural and religious ones). The author also raises the subject of the role of women, who often play an important role in self-treatment carried out in families. It's an interesting and important issue, which is rarely discussed in the context of health- and illness-related activities, especially in the Euro-American culture.

Wlodzimierz Pi^tkowski argues "that the historical perspective allows the medical sociologist to understand more thoroughly the social phenomena that he describes and interprets, which is why this interpretation was adopted in my own research, especially in the studies of self-treatment and folk medical systems." It is not pos- sible to study contemporary sociological phenomena without studying the historical conditions. Still, secondary sources are a valuable source for a sociologist studying not only non-medical treatment, but also other problems. This approach justifies the author's extensive characteristics of rural people's health now and in the past. For centuries, rural people accounted for a significant percentage of population in Poland. The countryside was a place where practices of non-medical treatment were always very popular. This part includes a deep analysis of behavior conditioning during illness. Among macrosocial determinants, Wlodzimierz Piqtkowski described the issues related to social policy, economics, culture and religion. According to the author, mesosocial determinants include the attitude to medical institutions and professions, and micrococial ones-nutritional patterns, housing conditions, hygienic habits and psychosocial factors.

The third part, entitled "Therapies of modern healers" presents-in my opinion-three very important issues. Firstly a sociological description of non-professional methods of fulfilling health needs. Secondly, discusess the problem from the theoretical perspective, referring to sociological theories-such as symbolic interactionism, phenomenology, ethnomethodology-and to Eliot Freidson's views. The analysis in this part presents non-medical treatment not only as one of the issues examined within one of the subdisciplines of sociology-i.e. the sociology of health, illness and medicine-but also as an issue which should be analyzed from the perspective of general sociology. …

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