Today was our discussion on hospitals in India, specifically near Mussoorie, and the different types of institutions and forms of treatment we see within them. I was surprised to learn that Indian government actually instilled a ministry that pluralizes the common medical practices of the country. The ministry of AYUSH not only allows acceptance but support for multiple different health systems which mimics the vast diversity I have recognized in terms of faith, language, and cultural practices within even the limits of Mussoorie. By allocating funding and research to each of these the domains, it would seem that the health care system would be considered nondiscriminatory and open to the citizen’s choice as to what type of care they want to obtain. However, we learned that this is not what we see in the Indian health care system at all. In fact, the matters of access and cost limit the type of care people are able to obtain. In particular, biomedicine, which removes cultural consideration from the treatment of disease, is offered extensively at modern, high-end hospitals such as the Mas Super Specialty Hospital. Biomedicine is also offered in private hospitals as well as government hospitals, but with different calibers of accommodation, privacy, and modernity. When people attempt to receive biomedical care at a private institution such as the Landaur Community Hospital, they often find prices to be listed ambiguously as well as cultural and religious expectations being intimidating. This pushes them to seek alternative care such as Ayurveda, Unani, and yoga which may be less intimidating and more affordable.
Another important point from today’s lecture is that of efficacy and non-biomedical practices. Biomedicine is purely science driven, so it is easy to take a few labs and prove if a treatment is working to cure a person of disease. However, Ayurveda, Unani, and yoga all rely on symptom treatment, comfort, and balance in a way that limits the ability to prove if it is really influencing a person’s health in a positive way. In countries in which biomedicine has dominated for years such as the US, this would be a reason not to practice these alternative systems. However, being in India for two weeks now I have taken note of the inherent spirituality of the community, and find that alternative medicines that rate health on a spectrum may have greater impact on a person’s wellbeing. The interplay between health treatment and religion is dominant and often dictates which forms of care people are more likely to seek. For example, a Muslim is more likely to participate in Unani and a Hindu is more likely to participate in Ayurveda than the other way around. I believe that this relationship can contribute to health in a way that biomedicine may not always be able to. For example, genetic testing in biomedicine is not always beneficial, if you find that your genome holds a gene for a non-curable degenerative disease such as Huntington’s this may only cause distress, however, if you work to cope with the symptoms of Huntington’s a person’s well-being in terms of the physical and the mental are likely to be much better. Overall, India has a vast range of religions, cultures, and health practices, but all are major considerations that need to be taken into account when making life decisions.