Health care Practices in the Context of Multi-culturalism
Canada has historically welcomed newcomers, and its immigrants come from an increasingly broad range of countries and backgrounds. As a result, it is a primary locus of cultural cross-fertilization, particularly as it pertains to health care factors. In this context, it is not surprising that the health of immigrants, who make up almost 20 per cent of the population, is of concern to our leaders and to health care professionals, especially since it seems to have deteriorated over the years.
It is also clear why Canadians’ love affair with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and with natural products—an estimated 70 per cent of the population is currently using them—deserves to be a full-fledged research field generating more than the reductionist explanations often proffered regarding the purpose of such therapies.
Chairholder Dr. Laurence Monnais, who specializes in the history of colonial medicine and of Vietnamese health care practices, plans to examine these two issues by studying health care pluralism from an historical perspective. This will give her a better understanding of changes in the health care practices of ethnocultural communities and of changes in the health care practices of the Canadian population as a whole in light of the immigration experience.
One of her objects of research will be the content of statements on health care pluralism and CAM (including traditional medicine) that have been made by decision-makers, health care professionals, patients and health care consumers in a number of countries since the advent of “modern” medicine in the 19th century. She also intends to conduct a comparative analysis of the pluralistic practices adopted by various communities and their members as well as the socio-cultural and socio-historical factors underlying these practices. In addition, she plans to examine the relationships between the statements of the various stakeholders and the practices adopted and to study their impact on health care policy, medical systems, medicalization processes and individual health and wellness practices.
As well as making a very useful contribution to the debate on the future of Canada’s health care systems, Monnais’ work will generate a more accurate assessment of what the role of CAM and traditional medicine should be, thereby meeting individuals’ expectations while continuing to improve the health of the Canadian population as a whole. Her research will also help to meet the challenges posed by multi-culturalism in the crucial field of health care.