Intercultural Health

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The idea of “interculturality”, specifically focused on the theme of health, is already a few decades old. Its political, organizational, normative, and institutional antecedents go back to the end of the 20th century. As a project, “interculturality” reflects and summarizes a variety of political projects that are in varying cases either parallel, complementary or contradictory in nature. On the one hand, there is interculturality as a decolonization project, sometimes formed from organizational processes and social or ethnical claims. On the other, there is interculturality as a State project, in some cases fitting into the neo-liberal model of “diversity” and in others as a response from social demand. (M. Alexiades) From a more general perspective, “interculturality in health” points towards the need to look for ways and mechanisms to allow different health and medical systems, in this case Western and Indigenous, to interact in a more harmonious and complementary manner. In any case, the goal is to provide more efficient and culturally pertinent health services.

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Didier y Oswaldo Payaguaje -médico Sekopia- con Yoco

Oswaldo Payaguaje – Siekopia medicine man- with Yoco plant, and Didier Lacaze

Successful programmes and models of intercultural health, which demonstrate a higher efficiency than current models, do not yet exist in the Ecuadorian Amazon. This is partly due to the inexistence of information systems and a real dialogue between the concerned parties. However, it is noted that interculturality in health, seen from a fairer and more equal relationship between the two systems of understanding and knowledge, would improve the health conditions of Indigenous populations.
We believe that interculturality in health is, to a certain extent, conditioned by the possibility of bringing to conclusion endogenous processes of recuperation, consolidation and renovation of traditional Indigenous systems of health. This means that it is conditioned to wider processes of self-determination and autonomy inside indigenous groups and societies. It is therefore difficult to put forward concrete proposals on how an intercultural health system should work. What we can see and feel to be very present is the absence of a deep critical analysis of the multiple difficulties (epistemic, structural, etc.) faced by initiatives in the field, from the experience of concrete projects and people who have been engaged in this process over a number of years.

Some possible conditions, bases and mechanisms to build intercultural Indigenous health models:

With an awareness of the challenges and opportunities of cultural exchange and dialogue, the Sacha Warmi Muskuy attempts to generate the types of knowledge, abilities and pedagogies necessary to face the urgent socio-environmental crisis in the context of the multi-cultural and post-colonial Amazon.

As a resource and reference center, the mission of the Sacha Warmi Muskuy is to build bridges, to be a space of mediation to promote and support intercultural dialogue involving both parties – the traditional and western health and medical systems.
We believe that to achieve a real intercultural dialogue it is necessary for a reflection process to take place within each group. It is first necessary that indigenous people evaluate the situation of their health and medicine systems, see what can be done within their own culture to recover what can still be saved and strengthened. Once this is done, more concrete proposals can be put forward and an intercultural dialogue can happen in better conditions of equality and mutual respect. On the side of the official health system, we think that there is the need to look for ways of generating more interest among health professionals and institutions, to reach a better understanding and acceptance of the real possibilities and advantages brought by traditional indigenous medicine. This interest can be generated through continuous processes of sensitization and education.
It is probable that Sacha Warmi Muskuy will be unable to do much if this interest coming from both sides doesn’t exist.

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Aprendiendo curación con plantas
Estudiantes de Enfermería -Puyo

Learning healing with plants. / Nursing students -Puyo

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