Case Studies,

Different approaches to healthcare


Over-reliance on drugs?
Different parts of the world have very different approaches to both health and medicine. Within western medicine, there is a tendency to focus solely on the particular illness, and to treat it with a range of chemically synthesised drugs. Whilst this can be very affective, it can also result in an over-reliance on medication. Recent reports in the media have highlighted the new generation of prescription drugs that alter your personality – to make you happier, more confident and more relaxed. But these very drugs can have harmful long-term side effects, many of which have yet to be fully discovered.

Traditional approaches
Many parts of the world have a strong tradition of using natural remedies to treat ill health. Medicines have been made from herbs and plants for thousands of years and for example in Traditional Chinese Medicine this is used in conjunction with other practices, such as acupuncture. In this case, the balance of the entire body is taken into account when the patient is being treated rather than dealing with a single malady, as it focuses upon 12 energy or meridian lines that run through the body, each corresponding to the 12 major organs.

Another form of medicine that is increasing in popularity is homeopathy. In this case, diseases are treated using small doses of medicines which would produce similar symptoms in a healthy person. The amounts used are very small, and some people argue that there is no scientific basis for the claims that homeopathy can cure illness and disease. Critics argue that the positive results are largely coincidental, in that people feel better because they believe that their treatment is working. Furthermore, people can actually damage their health by taking unnecessary remedies without first consulting a doctor.

Access is an issue
Whilst these forms of medical practice have their supporters and critics, the fact that they are available is an advantage many in the South do not always have. The WHO oversees immunisation programmes to help prevent deaths caused by diseases such as polio and tuberculosis. Yet expensive medicine isn't the only thing needed - millions of people die each year from simple-to-treat conditions, such as dehydration caused by diarrhoea. Access to clean water could prevent many of these deaths. Hence primary health-care needs to directly involve the local community in the broadest sense to ensure health for all.