Affordable Access

Publisher Website

Roads to Health in Developing Countries: Understanding the Intersection of Culture and Healing.

  • Ibeneme, S1, 2, 3
  • Eni, G3, 4
  • Ezuma, A1, 5
  • Fortwengel, G3, 6
  • 1 Clinical Trial Consortium, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria. , (Niger)
  • 2 UNIRED Research Group, Hochschule Hannover-University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Hannover, Germany. , (Germany)
  • 3 Department of Medical Rehabilitation, Faculty of Health Sciences & Technology, College of Medicine, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, Enugu, Nigeria. , (Niger)
  • 4 Department of Healthcare & Epidemiology, Division of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Medicine, Graduate Program in Health Services Planning & Administration, University of British Columbia, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 5 Department of Physiotherapy, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Ituku/Ozalla, Enugu, Nigeria. , (Niger)
  • 6 German UNESCO Unit on Bioethics, Fakultät III-Medien, Information and Design, Hochschule Hannover-University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Hanover, Germany. , (Germany)
Published Article
Current Therapeutic Research
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2017
DOI: 10.1016/j.curtheres.2017.03.001
PMID: 29234482


The most important attribute to which all human beings aspire is good health because it enables us to undertake different forms of activities of daily living. The emergence of scientific knowledge in Western societies has enabled scientists to explore and define several parameters of health by drawing boundaries around factors that are known to influence the attainment of good health. For example, the World Health Organization defined health by taking physical and psychological factors into consideration. Their definition of health also included a caveat that says, "not merely the absence of sickness." This definition has guided scientists and health care providers in the Western world in the development of health care programs in non-Western societies. However, ethnomedical beliefs about the cause(s) of illness have given rise to alternative theories of health, sickness, and treatment approaches in the developing world. Thus, there is another side to the story. Much of the population in developing countries lives in rural settings where the knowledge of health, sickness, and care has evolved over centuries of practice and experience. The definition of health in these settings tends to orient toward cultural beliefs, traditional practices, and social relationships. Invariably, whereas biomedicine is the dominant medical system in Western societies, traditional medicine-or ethnomedicine-is often the first port of call for patients in developing countries. The 2 medical systems represent, and are influenced by, the cultural environment in which they exist. On one hand, biomedicine is very effective in the treatment of objective, measurable disease conditions. On the other hand, ethnomedicine is effective in the management of illness conditions or the experience of disease states. Nevertheless, an attempt to supplant 1 system of care with another from a different cultural environment could pose enormous challenges in non-Western societies. In general, we, as human beings, are guided in our health care decisions by past experiences, family and friends, social networks, cultural beliefs, customs, tradition, professional knowledge, and intuition. No medical system has been shown to address all of these elements; hence, the need for collaboration, acceptance, and partnership between all systems of care in cultural communities. In developing countries, the roads to health are incomplete without an examination of the intersection of culture and healing. Perhaps mutual exclusiveness rather inclusiveness of these 2 dominant health systems is the greatest obstacle to health in developing countries.

Report this publication


Seen <100 times