Dissertation Abstracts

Traditional Medicine, Complementary and Alternative Medicine as Marker of Social Differentiation

Author: Spadacio, Cristiane , cris.spadacio@gmail.com
Department: College of Medical Sciences - Collective Health
University: University of Campinas, Brazil
Supervisor: Nelson Filice de Barros
Year of completion: 2013
Language of dissertation: Portugese

Keywords: chronic disease , complementary therap , traditional medicine , social inequity
Areas of Research: Health , Stratification


Despite the remarkable progress made by orthodox medicine, there has been remarkable growth in interest in and use of Traditional Medicine (TM) and Complementary and Alternative (CAM). The theme of this study is anchored in discussions about TM and CAM and their use by different social groups in situations of chronic illness, specifically diabetes mellitus type 2. The research aims to understand to what extent the use of TM and CAM for patients with type 2 diabetes is related to differences between social classes in Brazil. This research is based on interviews with 80 patients of public services and private health. 40 of these patients were being treated for type 2 diabetes in Outpatient Diabetes Mellitus, Hypertension and Obesity in the Department of Internal Medicine and Medical Semiology, Department of Internal Medicine at Unicamp, and 40 patients were from a private clinic in the city of Campinas. The interviews were conducted between April 2009 and May 2010. The interviews were supplemented with socioeconomic and demographic information about the patients, which allowed for me to infer the "status" of respondents, as well as aspects related to the perceptions of patients, especially with regard to access and choice for unorthodox treatments. The dissertation relies on the theories of Pierre Bourdieu, including the concepts of habitus and capital (particularly, economic, social and symbolic capital). This perspective provides a theoretical framework suitable for the analysis of TM and CAM while cultural practices used by different social groups in Brazilian society. The findings suggest that there are perceived differences in the use of TM and CAM for different patient profiles. Specifically, patients who exclusively use TM generally have low levels of education, low family income, and tend to use public service health. By contrast, patients who exclusively use CAM are highly educated, have high income and tend to use the service with private health insurance. In addition, there is a different profile for patients who use TM and CAM at the same time. Accordingly, it is suggested that the difference in the use of unconventional therapies may refer to a process of social differentiation, in that the values of different groups within a society as increasingly fragmented as Brazil, are related to a relevant classificatory power defined by its location in the class structure.