Conceptualisations of Healing in Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine; An Outback Australian Study.

Friday, 20 July 2018: 18:15
Oral Presentation
Aqua HASTINGS, University of Newcastle, Australia
The value of Traditional Complementary and Alternative Medicine (TCAM) in providing accessible and culturally acceptable health care, especially in remote areas, has been recognised by the World Health Organisation. Worldwide, attitudes and beliefs govern people’s access to TCAM more than affordability or validity. Nevertheless, little is known about what this means in specific settings. This study focuses on an Outback Australian town characterised by health inequalities and a diversity of sociocultural groups. A constructionist research approach and feminist theoretical framework have been used to understand the healing experiences of 30 TCAM providers. These in-depth interviews were analysed thematically. Theories of biomedical dominance have been applied to explain why some practices and experiences of healing are recognised and others overlooked in health care systems. Findings show that experiences of healing are contingent on the ideological, personal, social, cultural, political, geographical and cosmological factors that permeate daily life in the remote setting. These experiences lead to conceptualisations of healing that fall far outside of conventional notions found in public health models, and may explain the high prevalence of TCAM use in remote areas which are situated far from regulatory health care structures. Because the holistic premise of TCAM extends beyond the ‘absence of disease’, there is possibility that TCAM may provide novel paradigms and solutions that will broaden biomedical outlooks and offer culturally acceptable solutions to improve public health. This study aims to fill a gap in sociological investigation by enhancing understanding of the ways in which healing is conceptualised in a remote context. Use of feminist theories has added a multidimensional conceptual framework that enables recognition of marginalised experiences, thereby extending the parameters of academic concepts of health care and allowing new insights to emerge.