Medical Anthropology and African American Health

By Eric J. Bailey | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
African American Alternative Medical Practices

CRITICAL THINKING QUESTIONS
1. Describe your initial perceptions of African American alternative medical practices.
2. Why do African Americans tend to use alternative medicines?
3. What are the major factors that influence the use of alternative medicines?

INTRODUCTION

Alternative medical practices are defined as choices or options of medical care that are not a part of the mainstream or professional health care system. Alternative medical practices include the health values and knowledge, roles, and practices of laypersons, of specialists in folk medicine, and of laypersonspecialists such as the vocational practitioners of homeopathic medicine ( Aakster 1986).

In the field of medical anthropology, alternative medical practice is referred to as ethnomedicine. Ethnomedicine is defined as how members of a particular cultural and/or ethnic group think about disease/illness and organize themselves toward medical treatment. In general, both terms, ethnomedicine and alternative medical practices, refer to the similar process of seeking medical care that is not a part of the mainstream or professional health care system.

Alternative or ethnomedical therapies are gaining more public attention and are more widely used than most health care professionals may realize ( Youngkin and Israel 1996: 39). Champion ( 1993) stated that in a given year about a third of all American adults use unconventional medical treatments and

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