By Destiny Ho, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill ’18
Destiny is currently in Costa Rica with our Spring 2017 Tropical Diseases, Environmental Change, and Human Health program.
In our recent lectures we have been learning about the intercultural health care system, which is interactions between both biomedicine and traditional medicine, and discussing the importance of collaboration and eventually integration of the two forms of medicine. Today, we visited the La Cosana indigenous community, about twenty minutes away from Las Cruces Biological Station, where we had the opportunity to learn about their EBIAS (Los Equipos Básicos de Atención Integral en Salud), as well as talk to one of the Primary Healthcare Technicians and some of the indigenous healers. The EBAIS of the La Cosana community is a success story of the integration of biomedical practices with traditional medicine, mostly due to the respect and communication between the biomedical physician and traditional healers.
The traditional healers we spoke to told us the community is greatly affected by diabetes, anemia, and prostate problems, among other diseases. We also learned the community is affected by chronic diseases, as well as dental issues. These diseases could be coming from the imposition of the Westernized lifestyle and diet upon the indigenous community, especially with the increased access to high-sugar foods and chips. The healers also talked about how the “imposition of civilization” has led to a loss of tradition within the community, especially around eating habits. When asked about the EBAIS, the traditional healers enforced that there is a better relationship nowadays due to the respect that the healers and physicians have for one another and the collaboration of both parties. When a patient comes in and the traditional healers cannot aid the patient, they will refer them to the biomedical physician and vice versa.
One of the Primary Healthcare Technicians spoke of her role within the community, as well as a few of the problems with the EBAIS currently. One of the key roles of the Primary Healthcare Technician is prevention, through going house to house and recommending a trip to the EBAIS when necessary. Some of the problems that the community is facing are barriers to having a skilled birth attendant present during birth, as well as the computerization of the EBAIS system. Since the system has become computerized, it is harder for community members to access the healthcare since not every member has access to the internet and a computer. The Primary Healthcare Technician stated the importance of policy makers to look into the effects and ask communities before administering new systems.
Visiting the EBAIS was a wonderful experience, especially in seeing how traditional medicine and biomedicine can actually work together if there is effective communication and respect for one another.