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Ethnomedicine in healthcare systems of the world: a Semester at Sea pilot survey in 11 countries

Global Health Action
Informa UK (Taylor & Francis)
Publication Date
DOI: 10.3402/gha.v2i0.1969
  • Original Article
  • Anthropology
  • Medicine


Background An understanding and appreciation for the varied healthcare systems in use throughout the world are increasingly vital for medical personnel as patient populations are now composed of ethnically diverse people with wide-ranging belief systems. Objective While not a statistically valid survey, this pilot study gives a global overview of healthcare differences around the world. Design A pilot study of 459 individuals from 11 different countries around the world was administered by 33 students in the upper division course, People, Pathology, and World Medicine from Semester at Sea, Fall 2007, to ascertain trends in healthcare therapies. Open-ended surveys were conducted in English, through an interpreter, or in the native language. Results Western hospital use ranked highly for all countries, while ethnomedical therapies were utilized to a lesser degree. Among the findings, mainland China exhibited the greatest overall percentage of ethnomedical therapies, while the island of Hong Kong, the largest use of Western hospitals. Conclusions The figures and trends from the surveys suggest the importance of understanding diverse cultural healthcare beliefs when treating individuals of different ethnic backgrounds. The study also revealed the increasingly complex and multisystem-based medical treatments being used internationally.

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