According to Dulchinos, the “twin forces of civilization and monotheistic religion over several millinea forced shamanism into the background”. 10 Furthermore, during the period of colonialization, practices of traditional healers were repressed through anti-withcraft laws to maintain political and religious power as ritual practices are regarded as the “devil’s work”. Hostile situations were inescapable compelling traditional medical practitioners to cease performing rituals.
Contemporary medical science often view traditional healing systems as “backward cultural beliefs” and unsafe, and so contribute to furtherance of negative social sanctions against traditional medicine. 14 In modern societies, traditional medicine has not become widely accepted despite some degree of popularity. Various issues arise; addressing affordability, safety and efficacy of traditional healing practices. 16 An obstacle to establishing these parameters is the absence of objective test methods for traditional medical practices.
Recently, however, indigenous people have also learned to seek out Western medicine, especially through their exposure to Western medical missions and out-reach or relocation programs. 13 Some communities exist where traditional medicine men and medical science practitioners work as allies in protecting the health of society. Indigenous people realize that they cannot address certain unfamiliar emerging diseases and so they seek medical professional help.
Nevertheless, several negative influencing factors also do exist. Colonization and/or industrial use of lands has forced the local inhabitants to relocate. The inability to practice shamanic rituals is due to the fact that the source of medicinal plants and other resources are no longer accessible, either because of destruction or degradation of the environment or due to the death of a tribal leader, if not most of tribe members.
In conjunction, these external factors may have resulted to changes in traditional lifestyle giving rise to previously uncommon diseases among the tribe or certain chronic diseases and addictions related to diet and practices introduced by modern societies. 14 The infiltration of the modern medical facilities, health services and programs among indigenous communities has not been entirely successful. Financial, geographic and cultural barriers to access and implementation exist.
Poor road systems and lack of vehicles for transport including high travel expenses, limit medical access particularly for distant or isolated regions. Inability to pay for medical services due to lack of income resources, health insurance premiums or external support contributes to socioeconomic inequalities and stress from discrimination. 14,17,18 Cost of modern medications and medical services has also been a setback for indigenous people. Pharmaceutical products are quite expensive due to production costs, transportation cost and so forth.
Furthermore, warranting continuous adequate supply and appropriate storage have been difficult in rural areas. Oftentimes, appropriate dosage and treatment regimes can not always be achieved due to short supply of medical workforce in these areas. 19 Findings also show that since pharmaceuticals perform testing on subjects having different genetic composition and demographic, therapeutic effects vary. 13 Language barriers, cultural differences and insensitivities also lead to feelings of racial and cultural discrimination, social injustice and lessened personalized holistic care.
Furthermore, “the disjunction between the material and spiritual world” is not widely accepted or appreciated among indigenous people. 14,17,18 In addition, the health situation of indigenous cultures, under constraints to avail modern medical practices while foregoing traditional practices, developed “dependency, loss of identity and marginalization”. 14 Behavioral health and psychological well-being have also been affected. 17,18 Another issue of transgression of human rights, involving modern commodity-based industries and indigenous members of society, is the issue of “biopiracy”.
Khor, as cited in Global Health Watch, describes biopiracy as an unjust use of natural resources and knowledge of locals for commercial purposes. 13 The locals are entitled to benefit from the developed products that arose from their share of knowledge and the resources in their immediate environment. 20 Indigenous cultures experience further societal pressure because of the failure to recognize their “right to decide their own priorities for process of development; and, right to participation in formulation, implementation and evaluation of plans; affecting them directly”.