Medicine in Developing Countries
My name is Dr. Michael J. Marx NMD, Ph.D , I have traveled the world as a health adviser for the US government, helping to make changes in the way we look at contemporary medical approaches and implement alternative medical approaches in the way we treat patients today.The objective of medicine is to address people’s unavoidable needs for emotional and physical healing. The discipline has evolved over millennia by drawing on the religious beliefs and social structures of numerous indigenous peoples, by exploiting natural products in their environments, and more recently by developing and validating therapeutic and preventive approaches using the scientific method. Public health and medical practices have now advanced to a point at which people can anticipate—and even feel entitled to—lives that are longer and of better quality than ever before in human history.
Yet despite the pervasiveness, power, and promise of contemporary medical science, large segments of humanity either cannot access its benefits or choose not to do so. More than 80 percent of people in developing nations can barely afford the most basic medical procedures, drugs, and vaccines. In the industrial nations, a surprisingly large proportion of people opt for practices and products for which proof as to their safety and efficacy is modest at best, practices that in the aggregate are known as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) or as traditional medicine (TM). With globalization, the pattern of disease in developing countries is changing. Unlike in the past, when communicable diseases dominated, now 50 percent of the health burden in developing nations is due to noncommunicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hypertension, depression, and use of tobacco and other addictive substances. Because lifestyle, diet, obesity, lack of exercise, and stress are important contributing factors in the causation of these noncommunicable diseases, CAM and TM approaches to these factors in particular will be increasingly important for the development of future health care strategies for the developing world.
We refer to medical practices that evolved with indigenous peoples and that they have introduced to other countries through emigration as traditional medicine. We refer to approaches that emerged primarily in Western, industrial countries during the past two centuries as scientific or Western medicine, although we acknowledge that not all Western medicine is based on scientifically proven knowledge. The termscomplementary and alternative describe practices and products that people choose as adjuncts to or as alternatives to Western medical approaches. Increasingly, the terms CAM and TM are being used interchangeably (Kaptchuk and Eisenberg 2001; Straus 2004).
Endless varieties of practices are scientifically unproven and poorly accepted by medical authorities. For the sake of organizing an agenda for research into these approaches, the U.S. National Institutes of Health has grouped them into five somewhat overlapping categories;
- Biologically based practices. These include use of a vast array of vitamins and mineral supplements, natural products such as chondroitin sulfate, which is derived from bovine or shark cartilage; herbals, such as ginkgo biloba and echinacea; and unconventional diets, such as the low-carbohydrate approach to weight loss espoused by the late Robert Atkins.
- Manipulative and body-based approaches. These kinds of approaches, which include massage, have been used throughout history. In the 19th century, additional formal manipulative disciplines emerged in the United States: chiropractic medicine and osteopathic medicine. Both originated in an attempt to relieve structural forces on vertebrae and spinal nerve roots that practitioners perceived as evoking a panoply of illnesses beyond mere musculoskeletal pain.
- Mind-body medicine. Many ancient cultures assumed that the mind exerts powerful influences on bodily functions and vice versa. Attempts to reassert proper harmony between these bodily systems led to the development of mind-body medicine, an array of approaches that incorporate spiritual, meditative, and relaxation techniques.
- Alternative medical systems. Whereas the ancient Greeks postulated that health requires a balance of vital humors, Asian cultures considered that health depends on the balance and flow of vital energies through the body. This latter theory underlies the practice of acupuncture, for example, which asserts that vital energy flow can be restored by placing needles at critical body points.
- Energy medicine. This approach uses therapies that involve the use of energy—either biofield- or bioelectromagnetic-based interventions. An example of the former is Reiki therapy, which aims to realign and strengthen healthful energies through the intervention of energies radiating from the hands of a master healer.
Alternative systems of medicine use elements from each of these CAM and TM domains. For example, traditional Chinese medicine incorporates acupuncture, herbal medicines, special diets, and meditative exercises such as tai chi. Ayurveda in India similarly uses the meditative exercises of yoga, purifying diets, and natural products. In the West, homeopathic medicine and naturopathic medicine each arose in the late 19th century as reactions to the largely ineffectual and toxic conventional approaches of the day: purging, bleeding, and treatments with heavy metals such as mercury and arsenicals. The use of CAM and TM varies widely between and within countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) has published and summarized numerous surveys of use. In developing nations, TM is the sole source of health care for all but the privileged few. By contrast, in affluent countries individuals select CAM approaches according to their specific beliefs. For example, as many as 60 percent of those living in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom consume homeopathic or herbal products. The sad reality is only 1 to 2 percent of Americans use homeopathy, but 10 percent of adults use herbal medicines, 8 percent visit chiropractors, and 1 to 2 percent undergo acupuncture every year (Ni, Simile, and Hardy 2002). Use of CAM and TM among patients with chronic, painful, debilitating, or fatal conditions, such as Auto-Immune Disorders and cancer, is far higher, ranging from 50 to 90 percent (Richardson and Straus 2002).
Beginning more than 1,500 years ago, data on the use of thousands of natural products were assembled into impressive monographs in China, India, and Korea, but these compendiums—and similar texts from Arabic, Egyptian, Greek, and Persian sources and their major European derivatives—are wonderful catalogs of products and their uses.
Many people today choose herbal products in lieu of prescription medications because these products are natural and they are safe. Recent studies have shown that Nutraceuticals are highly variable in quality and composition, they are safe, effective and are better to put in your body then the chemicals that “BIG PHARMA” promotes as safe and effective. We as Naturopath’s are not Witch Doctor’s as ” BIG PHARMA ” would have you believe, we treat the patients this way because we are treating the Whole Body not just the symptoms. So everyone remember ” STAY HEALTHY ” and Make It a Great Day.
“STAY HEALTHY and MAKE IT A GREAT DAY”
Dr. Michael J. Marx NMD, Ph.D.
Marx’s Alternative Health Services
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