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Inter-Professional Conflict and Strategic Alliance Between Traditional Healers and Oncologists in Pakistan

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There are increasing calls from global health organisations for the promotion of traditional medicines (TM) as one method of addressing the health needs of populations in poorer countries. However, little research has been done to explore the interactions (and potential conflicts between) traditional healthcare systems and biomedical services. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with 46 cancer patients in Lahore, Pakistan, this article examines patients' experiences of the inter-professional dynamics associated with the range of traditional and biomedical cancer treatments. Results illustrate a complex set of 'cross sectoral' relationships. On the one hand, significant professional distancing was identified between certain traditional healers and biomedical clinicians, as was the deployment of discursive and regulatory gate-keeping tactics at a grassroots level. However, there was also evidence of selective strategic alliance between one traditional practice — Dam Darood, and biomedicine; a relationship deeply embedded in shared religious beliefs and their seemingly compatible therapeutic objectives. It is concluded that, for the development of culturally-appropriate health policy, there is the need for a multifaceted understanding of the socio-cultural processes underpinning the relationships between different treatment modalities.

Affiliations: 1: Lecturer in Sociology, The University of Newcastle, Australia; 2: School of Healthcare, University of Leeds


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