The Unifying Aspects of Cultures


Culture, Psychosocial Disorders and Mental Health: an African Perspective

Nawaraj Subba (Nepal)
Culture and Health

Culture is complete whole, which includes knowledge, belief, customs, art, and morals, law and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society [1]. The concept of disease and illness are defined by different cultures from their own prospective. Both material and non-material culture are responsible for health. Nepal is a country where eastern as well as non-western, its original or indigenous has been prevailed to date. According to its culture, illness and disease may be ascribed by 1. Wrath of gods and goddesses including unfavorable planetary effects 2. Evil spirits 3. Sorcery 4. Witchcraft and evil eyes; and Breach of taboos [2]. Healers or shamans in the community have carried out culture of traditional medication. They are called as Dhami, Jhakri, Ojha, Phedanba, Bijuwa, priest, pandit, vaidhya, Lhama, etc

Positive aspects of Non-western medication culture are as - It is considered under the categories of psychosocial support therapies and clinical or therapeutic acts especially indigenous pharmacopoeias. It is of comprehensive man-environment setting. There is a virtual consensus among anthropologists that psychosocial supportive, non-western medicine is often remarkable effective. There are numerous time tested healthy practices existed in Nepali culture. Negative aspects of Non-western culture are as - There are so many unscientific, dangerous and complicated practices that harm directly or/ and indirectly to the health of patient. Some time it may act offensive to someone unknown and innocent people in the name of witch, bad eyes or being a cause of someone's disease or death.

Health system comprises both public and private sectors, both western / modern medicine or traditional medicine. Traditional medication has been seated and deep-rooted socially as well as culturally. It is still considered affordable economically due to growing cost of modern medication. Culture is one of the major determinants of health of a human being from its womb to tomb. It has been experienced that researches and review of traditional medication and practices of our culture should be done. Traditional healers need to be trained. Traditional healers or faith healers could do job by referring cases of acute respiratory infection (ARI), diarrhoeal diseases, Tuberculosis, Leprosy, Malaria, Kalazar and other infectious diseases to health institutions. Traditional healers could be involved during national campaigns such as Vitamin A distribution, Health Education campaigns on the basis of partnership and participation.

[1] Tyler, E.B.; cited from A textbook of Health Education, L. Ramachandran and T. Dharmalingam, Vikas publishing house Pvt.Ltd., New Delhi, 1983
[2] Gartaulla, R.P., Therapy pattern of conventional medicine with other alternative medications - A study in medical anthropology in Nepal, 1998