Seven conceptual differences could be identified between biomedicine (BM), and traditional medicine (TM):

  1. BM tries to make it better (meliorism), TM  accepts with grace;
  2. BM takes control over nature (dominance), TM tries to strike a balance and bring harmony;
  3. BM would do something and interfere actively (activism), TM would rather wait and see;
  4. BM would intervene sooner than later (timeliness), TM would apply cautious deliberation;
  5. BM would apply aggressive therapies, stronger is better (strong measures), TM would take gentle approaches;
  6. BM plans ahead, newer is better (future orientation), TM takes life as it comes (time honoured);
  7. BM treats similar disease the same (standardization), TM recognizes differences (individualized).


n       References: Putsch III RW. Cross-cultural communication: The special case of interpreters in health care. JAMA 1985;254(23):3344-48

n       Sockalingum adapted from Hayes, Cultural Competence Continuum, 1993 and Terry Cross Cultural Competency Continuum.


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