Traditional healingand westerns health care: a case against formal integration
V. Edward Bates
The holistic health movement has the potential for improving health care for all Americans. It also has the potential for descending upon Indian people with unexpected consequences. Traditional healing practices may become imperiled when, under the guise of holistic health, public health officials and health care workers (HCW)1, who dominate the services and bureaucratic processes, underwrite third-party payments and training for medicine persons. These processes potentially can subvert individualized spiritual services into a standard item of health care. None of the changes or preceding movements impacting Indian health over the past 30 years has presented such a risky challenge to Native American culture.
A review of major societal changes during the past three decades may help to explain why holistic health practices, affecting Indians in particular, are becoming popularized today. Recent history that has altered public attitudes towar Indians might begin with the clinical awareness of ethnic diversity and prejudicial attitudes that were significantly heightened by Adorno (1950) and Allport (1954). Certainly health concerns were highlighted when the Indian Health Service was legislated into existence at about the same time (1955). Remedial programs to address mental health problems, however, would not come into being within IHS for another 15 years.