Daily Bulletin


News

  • Written by Josephine Agu, PhD candidate, University of Technology Sydney

This article is the fifth part in a series, Where culture meets health.

Many people seek complementary treatments for various ailments. Perhaps herbal remedies to cure a cold, or acupuncture to ease lower back pain.

“Complementary medicine” refers to practices outside Western medicine, adopted from other cultures, and often used in high-income countries.

But “traditional medicine” covers a range of practices and therapies indigenous to their practising population. Based on historical and cultural foundations, it operates outside of mainstream health care.

So for example, traditional Chinese medicine is indigenous to the Chinese and is therefore classified as a traditional medicine. But when it’s used by non-Chinese ethnicities, we’d call it a complementary medicine.

Read more: Nearly 1 in 4 of us aren't native English speakers. In a health-care setting, interpreters are essential

While many people use complementary medicines, traditional medicines form a particularly important influence on the way migrants look after their health.

This can present a challenge in the delivery of Western medical care to diverse communities in their destination countries.

But even where there’s little consensus around their efficacy, as we strive to achieve better health outcomes for culturally and linguistically diverse people, we must recognise traditional and complementary medicines as an essential component of their health care.

A holistic approach

Traditional and complementary medicines used among culturally and linguistically diverse populations include herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, traditional Chinese medicine, yoga, ayurveda, homeopathy, and tai chi. Different modalities are favoured in different communities.

Ayurveda is more than 5,000 years old and native to India. It combines lifestyle, diet, exercise and predominantly plant products as treatment options. Translating to “life science”, it aims to cleanse a person of disease-causing substances and restore balance in the body.

Ayurvedic practitioners believe this approach is effective in managing a number of acute and chronic conditions including diabetes, cancer, anxiety and rheumatoid arthritis.

Read more: Does traditional Chinese medicine have a place in the health system?

While some studies point to its efficacy – one found ayurvedic formulations were comparable to conventional medicines such as glucosamine to treat knee osteoarthritis – varied results and limited study designs make it difficult to draw firm conclusions.

Meanwhile, traditional Chinese medicine has evolved since it was first used more than 2,000 years ago. But it remains grounded in its aim to treat the whole body, rather than targeting the problem alone.

Traditional medicines must be integrated into health care for culturally diverse groups Traditional remedies often accompany migrants to their destination countries. From shutterstock.com

Encompassing practices including tai chi, acupuncture, and a variety of herbal remedies, Chinese medicine is today used to prevent and treat many conditions.

Patients with knee osteoarthritis who practised tai chi recorded significant improvements, while there have been positive results for acupuncture in relieving lower back pain and nausea associated with chemotherapy.

Traditional Chinese medicine has also been used for the prevention of heart disease and stroke, and to improve quality of life for people with chronic heart failure.

A recent review found certain Chinese medicines may control some risk factors for heart disease, like diabetes and high blood pressure. But several studies were limited by small sample sizes and flawed research designs.

Read more: Do you know what's in the herbal medicine you're taking?

Herbal remedies from Chinese medicine and beyond are employed to treat a range of conditions. St John’s wort has been used to treat mild depression, Ginkgo Biloba for memory loss, and ginseng for musculoskeletal conditions.

Despite some promising results, a substantial gap still exists between the strength of evidence supporting many of these practices and consumers’ use and acceptance of traditional and complementary medicines.

If the evidence is limited, why should we pay attention?

Some migrant communities experience poorer health than their host populations. For example, the rates of type 2 diabetes are higher among migrants than in the wider Australian population.

It’s important to recognise that for minority groups, feeling as though a doctor doesn’t understand their cultural needs can be a barrier to help-seeking.

For instance, if a person doesn’t believe their doctor will approve of their use of traditional medicines, they may not disclose it. We know non-disclosure of traditional and complementary medicine use is common among culturally diverse groups.

This can be dangerous, as some traditional and complementary medicines can negatively interact with other drugs.

Read more: Going to the naturopath or a yoga class? Your private health won't cover it

Where patients feel their practitioners are non-judgemental or even accepting of their traditional medicine use, they are more likely to disclose it.

So medical providers may benefit from education around different types of traditional and complementary medicines, including culturally sensitive methods to enquire about their use.

Traditional medicines must be integrated into health care for culturally diverse groups Acupuncture, a popular complementary therapy, has its roots in Chinese medicine. From shutterstock.com

What does Australia need to do?

The most mature integrative health care systems are evident in Asia. Countries like South Korea and India have regulated traditional and complementary medicines into their national health policies.

To effectively tackle health inequities, our health systems need to consider and address the impact of cultural influences on patients’ health-care decisions. This is vital even when the treatments they value may not be grounded in evidence.

Investigating and considering these practices will ultimately help us to design and facilitate safe, effective, culturally sensitive and coordinated care for all patients and communities across Australia.

Professor Jon Adams contributed to this article.

Authors: Josephine Agu, PhD candidate, University of Technology Sydney

Read more http://theconversation.com/traditional-medicines-must-be-integrated-into-health-care-for-culturally-diverse-groups-114980

Writers Wanted

Heading back to the playground? 10 tips to keep your family and others COVID-safe

arrow_forward

Qatar expresses 'regrets' for 'any distress' to women invasively searched in baby incident

arrow_forward

Education & More – Family Tips on How to Settle in Bangkok

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Business News

AppDynamics Solves Visibility Gap Between Traditional Infrastructure and Cloud Environments

New Full Stack Observability Platform, Integration With Cisco Intersight Workload Optimizer and Cloud Native Visualisation Features Provide Cross Domain Insights and Analytics of Business Perfor...

Hotwire Global - avatar Hotwire Global

Why Your Small Business Should Bulk Buy Hand Sanitiser

As a small business owner, employee and customer safety is at the very top of your priority list. From risk assessments to health and safety officers, appropriate signage and proper briefing...

News Co - avatar News Co

How Phone Number Search In Sydney Can Help Your Business

To run a successful business, keeping track of your company and competitors are the major factors. With a lot of tools, available businesses have options to stay current. One way in which busine...

News Co - avatar News Co



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion