Wary of Mainstream Medicine, Immigrants Seek Remedies From Home – The New York Times

Likely similar in Canada and some readers may be more familiar with any comparable initiatives here:

With the help of a $130,000 grant from the Cigna Foundation, the Botanical Garden offers training for doctors to help them better understand their patients’ cultural beliefs. So far, 740 medical students and practicing physicians have gone to the garden’s tropical conservatory to learn about medicinal plants and to participate in role-playing exercises. “It is all about promoting increased trust between health care providers and their patients,” Dr. Vandebroek said.

Issues of trust and culture are not the only things that have made some immigrants leery of mainstream medicine. Doctors’ visits are expensive, and herbs, selling for a few dollars a bag, are cheaper than prescription drugs.

According to a study by the Commonwealth Fund, 43 percent of Hispanics in the United States do not have a primary personal care physician or health provider. More than one-third lack health insurance, nearly double the rate for blacks and triple that for white Americans.

High costs and cultural differences have created a troubling disconnect between many Hispanics and the health care system. It is a rift that Dr. Roger Chirurgi, program director for the emergency medicine residency for the New York Medical College at Metropolitan Hospital Center in Manhattan, would like to heal.

“There’s a lot of people who we’ll see at repeat visits, and they’ve never taken their medicine,” Dr. Chirurgi said. “That’s why I’ve been taking my residents to the Botanical Garden for the past three years, to try to become more culturally sensitive and to be able to break through that barrier.”

Dr. Chirurgi now routinely asks patients if they are using herbals when he takes their medical history. He worries about the dangers of unregulated remedies that lack dosage guidelines and scientific evidence of their efficacy. “I want to make sure that they are safe, and don’t interact with the drug that I am prescribing,” he said. Still, he conceded that herbals may be helpful, if only as placebos. “If you believe that something will work,” he said, “it may actually work in some cases.”

Source: Wary of Mainstream Medicine, Immigrants Seek Remedies From Home – The New York Times

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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