The residents of the Kalinago Territory have access to traditional medicines and healing methods along with modern western practices and medication. This is an important aspect for the successful development of the community and the existence of the people.
For all intents and purposes, health is understood to be the level of functional or metabolic efficiency of a living organism. More specifically in humans it generally is the ability of individuals or communities to adapt and self-manage physical, mental or social challenges.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defined health in its broader sense in its 1948 constitution as
“A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”
Shamanism is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with a spirit world and channel these transcendental energies into this world. A shaman is a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits, who typically enters into a trance state during a ritual, and practices divination and healing.
The Kalinago people as initially a hunter and gatherer people were in tune with nature and utilized plants for everyday maladies. They practiced herbalism; use of plants for medicinal purposes, and the study of such use.
Plants have been the basis for medical treatments through much of human history, and such traditional medicine is still widely practiced today. Modern medicine recognizes herbalism as a form of alternative medicine, as the practice of herbalism is not strictly based on evidence gathered using the scientific method.
Prior to the European capitalist project on Wai’tukubuli the Kalinago used traditional medicine. In recent years this knowledge has become known as indigenous or folk medicine. As an integral part of the Kalinago civilization this form of medicine comprised varying knowledge systems. These have been found to have developed over generations within numerous societies around the globe before the era of modern medicine.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines traditional medicine as:
“The sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness.”
The oral histories of the Kalinago Community relate that such a practice was an integral part of the welfare of the people and survived well into the 19th century.
Presently, the Kalinago Territory is a beneficiary of national Primary health care (PHC). The benefits are important to the people because PHC refers to “essential health care” that is expected to be based on scientifically sound and socially acceptable methods and technology. This strategy makes universal health care universally accessible to individuals and families in the Kalinago community.
Based on the PHC Model the Kalinago community is served by three health centres; Atkinson, Salybia and Mahaut River. These facilities are serviced by nurses and health care assistants and are visited by the District Medical Officer on a weekly basis.
It is through their full participation and at a cost that the community and the country can afford to maintain at every stage of their development in the spirit of self-reliance and self-determination. In other words, PHC is an approach to health beyond the traditional health care system that focuses on health equity-producing social policy.
PHC includes all areas that play a role in health, such as access to health services, environment and lifestyle. Thus, primary health care and public health measures, taken together, may be considered as the cornerstones of universal health systems.