Ethnomedical Approach

Through an anthropological scope, I believe the ethnomedical approach is the most helpful approach in understanding health. Ethnomedicine is the study of traditional medicine via different ethnic/tribal groups. Based on a groups cultural and religious beliefs, their medical practices are shaped and observed. I believe this approach is helpful in understanding health because it helps one analyze and understand the methods different groups use for their medical practices. Through the ethnomedical approach, one can gain an appreciation for another groups culture and can learn/enhance their healthcare in a respectable way. You don’t want to go into an indigenous population and try to introduce a medical practice that may contradict their standard of living or religious beliefs. A disease is an issue resulting within an organ or organ system. An illness is how we feel as a result of that disease. We treat a disease that treats the illness we feel. Cancer is the disease, a fever is the resulting illness. In Body Ritual Among the Nacirema, Horace Miner explores Nacirema methods to treat illness. Many of their healing rituals included praying and showing appreciation to a greater power in exchange for health. While these practices seem absurd to us nowadays, these ritualistic practices have been common all around the world with a certain degree of success. Much of this success can be attributed to them not realizing the difference between disease and illness. One of the rituals observed by the Nacirema people is the use of charms. These charms represented the health of the indigenous people. Every person had a charm box with certain charms in it they believed they needed to stay alive. Coupled by advice from medicine men and herbalists, the people were content with this healthcare choice. Another such ritual was the act of latipso. The medicine men had temples that they would heal the extremely sick in. Much of these rituals associated with the idea of prayer and waiting for these prayers coupled with rituals to be answered. One thing that really stuck out to me was the statement “the latipso ceremonies are so harsh that it is phenomenal that a fair proportion of the really sick natives who enter the temple ever recover.” Talk about having blind faith in a practice.


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