The sought after standard of living that one yearns towards, greatly depends on one’s functional ability to live it. In other words, the physical and mental health of an individual curates their perceptibility in the grand experience of living. More so, a community of such able-minded functioning individuals, eventually build what we call- a city, state, nation, economy. Thus, it’s evident that an active economic nation and its working government body needs to allocate funds and resources towards developing the healthcare system for its populace. A healthy nation has a pre-dominant active workforce, spread across its various industries contributing to the overall development.
In Bangladesh, ‘good health and wellbeing’ is one of the 17 Standard Development Goals (SDG), along with sanitation, zero hunger, poverty reduction, consistent economic growth and so on. The SDG’s are a working pre-requisite to the achievement of the bigger Millennium Development Goals (MDG). According to UNDP, Bangladesh has progressed in the healthcare goals of lowering child mortality rates by half and reducing the presence of HIV/AIDS based infections by about 40%; undoubtedly a great benchmark for the country to reach. On the other hand, the country has also been able to improve the life expectancy at birth & healthy life expectancy. Life expectancy is an indicator of overall mortality whereas, health expectancy looks into the current state of well-being, both indicators are found with respect to the population of the country.
As per health service coverage, which looks into infant and maternal health, the incidence of communicable and non-communicable diseases, accessibility of services; access to sanitation, medicines, and hospital services are relatively low. The coverage plans for households are muddled and require measures to ensure more efficient and smooth access.
As per the WHO: 2018 health profile of Bangladesh, life-expectancy at birth increased by 7.4 years and health expectancy rose by 7 years, between the years 2000 to 2016. This is quite an achievement in our 40+ years of independence, where initially, the country suffered from ailments such as famine and high infant mortality rates. However, the Universal Health Care (UHC) index shows the incidence of financial and accessibility issues, yet faced by the people. UHC aims to provide the relevant healthcare facilities to all respective communities and people without suffering grim financial hardships. As per (World Health Organization, 2018)“monitoring UHC requires measuring health service coverage and financial protection”. As per health service coverage, which looks into infant and maternal health, the incidence of communicable and non-communicable diseases, accessibility of services; access to sanitation, medicines, and hospital services are relatively low. The coverage plans for households are muddled and require measures to ensure more efficient and smooth access. There lies an issue of getting a place in the hospital beds, especially in public hospitals, where the density of patients with its counterpart x-inefficient management; muddles the impact of proficient healthcare service.
Financial protection, which is measured through the indicators of impoverishment and catastrophic health expenditure; estimates around 3.4% of the populace is being pushed into poverty due to pocket spending on healthcare services. More so, 13,9% spent approximately 10% of their total household expenditure on said services. We can infer that means of modern healthcare brings out a set of financial and alienating shortfalls; gaps in attaining wellbeing that only the wealthier strata of the population can access.
Thus, the tendency for households to seek alternative means of healthcare by switching from allopathy to homeopathy. The homeopathic practice offers a cost-effective means of healthcare service, which to the people, bridges the gaps modern medicine has. As per (Elahee, Rahman, Rahman, Hossain, & Zaki, 2008) “in order to achieve Health for All, alternative medicines must be incorporated in the health care of the people along with conventional medicine”
Homeopathy: Another pseudo-science?
Homeopathy, both as a science and practice have been largely criticized and ridiculed by allopathic practitioners of Bangladesh. The critiques are regarding the methodologies in the sourcing and preparation of the medicine. More so, statements of the practice being backdated and the doctors lacking core medical knowledge are made. However, many of the formidable doctors of this unorthodox science have actually undergone the complete allopathic education in anatomy, physiology, surgery, along with its practical evaluations. The Bangladesh Homeopathic Medical College and Hospital offers a diploma (DHMS) and a 5-year degree (BHMS); under Dhaka University. The interesting thing here is that the requirements for admission for BHMS are equivalent to that of the MBBS degree. The government promoted the practice by introducing a project called Alternative Medical Care (AMC), under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The project promotes the practices of ayurvedic, homeopathic and Unani treatments. Although the homeopaths acknowledge the efforts of the governing body, the generic stigma of not being recognized as a mainstream medicine practice looms over them. They ask for a larger allocation of funds for the university, MPO’s for the doctors and investments on more R&D.
The workings of Homeopathy
“Like cures like” is one of the key principles of homeopathy, i.e., using remedies that cause the symptoms of a particular illness, is the cure (Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell, 2018). For instance, in order to cure a fever, a remedy made from Belladonna (which causes fever) will help in recovery. Similarly, a bee stung/swelling can be treated using a mixture consisting of bee venom.
Potentization is another principle by which homeopathic remedies are made. The process is believed to activate the ingredients’ remedial powers and enhance the effect. The ingredient is first dissolved in distilled water or alcohol; then, the content is diluted to one-tenth of the concentration and shaken vigorously – a process called succussion. The diluted result is referred to as a 1X Potency. Then, one part of the 1X dilution is again mixed with nine-part water and succussed again; the process is repeated several times or until the desired grade of potency is reached. (Croce, 2000). The finished remedy is either taken orally or sometimes applied as sugar pellets sold as globules. An extreme potency – 1C Potency – consists of one-part ingredient and ninety-nine parts water. This means, a 40C potency, for example, would be a one-part ingredient and 1×1060 water. In theory, the globule pill would be as big as the distance from the earth to the sun i.e., 150,000,000 km (Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell, 2018). Thus, potentization is, therefore, the biggest criticisms of homeopathy; theoretically the extreme dilution would make the medicine more potent, in reality however, it does not make sense. Continuous dilution of the ingredient would lead to a solution where not even a single atom of the original substance is left. However, the reason behind why the solutions might work is because the succession process (i.e. vigorously shaking the mixture) of each dilution, supposedly leaves behind a spirit-like essence of the main ingredient. It has been argued, that this would, therefore, suggest that any substance which made contact with water, would leave an essence; leading to unpredictable effects.
Conversely, homeopathy is also proven successful because of one key principle. The first consultation with the homeopath is up-close and personal and takes a few hours. The responsiveness received by the patient makes a big difference in their health. Modern medicine can learn how to meet the unfulfilled need from homeopathy.
In the 18th century, the German physician Dr. Samuel Hahnemann introduced a non-invasive and natural way of healing – homeopathy. During that time, treatments were much more rigorous and painful; as a result, homeopathic hospitals became instantly popular. However, Hahnemann imposed very strict rules on his patients; starting from severe food restrictions, certain clothing, and work, to extreme restrictions of simple activities. The remedies would, therefore, only work if his strict imposition were followed.
Much of those ‘ridiculous’ rules are ignored in today’s time. Over the past 150 years, modern medicine has evolved and changed. Due to the large tools developed, modern diagnostics and scientific evaluation can be checked and proved what works. As a result, after countless studies, homeopathy is viewed as to have zero effect – beyond placebo. The placebo effect is not imaginary; no one is immune to it. If one believes that a medicine will help in curing them, that belief alone has the desired effect; even if the medicine is not real. Additionally, the placebo effect has been proven that it is transferable. Children depend on their parents and are thus, in tune with their emotions and feelings.
The most powerful tool of homeopathy is time; the human body is a survival machine (Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell, 2018). Infections typically pass on their own; but when medicine is taken while a person is sick and see improvement, they believe the medicine cured them. The homeopathy industry, therefore, is an alternative for pharmaceutical medicines. The multibillion-dollar industry has its own lobby organizations who constantly fight the pharmaceutical companies. By 2024, the global market for homeopathy is expected to reach USD 17 billion (Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell, 2018). Many have argued that the industry has a negative effect on public health; the belief in homeopathy discourages people from seeking the help they need when their lives are in danger.
Homeopathy as a guide for modern medicine
Modern medicine is effective and each year, millions of lives are saved. The constricted financial budgets, compel doctors to treat a lot of patients. Thus, the system is strictly organized. Consultations are time-efficient, and diagnoses are rapidly decided with the fastest treatment. As a result, patients tend to feel confused and scared. Conversely, homeopathy is also proven successful because of one key principle. The first consultation with the homeopath is up-close and personal and takes a few hours. The responsiveness received by the patient makes a big difference in their health. Modern medicine can learn how to meet the unfulfilled need from homeopathy. But, it cannot substitute the actual treatment. Empathy can move mountains, but sugar water cannot cure cancer.
All in all, homeopathy is one of the most popular alternative medicines; however, it is also considered the most controversial. People either swear by it or are totally against it. Allopathy is precise, measurable and stable; however, can be expensive on the pockets and is prone to uncanny side-effects from improper dosage or diagnosis. Where do you stand?