What are health, illness and healing? An EU-funded project focusing on indigenous communities in Ecuador is exploring traditional perceptions and the ways in which other cultures affect them. New insights could help inform the design of policies to support migrant or marginalised populations from traditional backgrounds.
© subbotsky - fotolia.com
The EU-funded project MEDICINE is looking back to go forward: its research on traditional medicine notably involves studying archaeological and ethno-historical records. Retracing developments in the past is helping the team to work out how peoples understanding of health and their attitude to illness change as a result of traumatic exposure to other cultures in the context of war or displacement, for example.
The projects exploration of these aspects focuses on the example of Quechua peoples in the northern Andes, more particularly in Ecuador. Dependence on traditional forms of healing remains widespread among indigenous people in this part of the world, the researchers note.
And, generally speaking, many Andean peoples retain substantial relicts of an ancestral belief system and understandings of the world, of the nature of illness and its manner of treatment, they add. The project highlights the significance of traditional practices as a form of intangible cultural heritage.
While the belief systems MEDICINE is studying are steeped in history, the fresh insight it is striving to deliver has potential applications in dealing with contemporary global challenges such as migration. The researchers intend to generate a transcultural model for use with marginalised or migrant populations from traditional backgrounds, as a contribution to the design and delivery of culturally aware healthcare and related services to support them.
MEDICINE is a three-year project due to end in October 2019. It is backed by an individual fellowship grant from the EUs Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions programme.