Pluralism, parallel medical practices and the question of tension: the Philippines experience


  • Nazrul Islam Department of Sociology, University of Hong Kong



Pluralism and the co-existence of a variety of different medical systems within a chosen context are common features in various settings. How do the different systems or practices interact? Is it plausible to develop an integrated health system (combining both biomedical and alternative medicines) within the national system in a medically pluralist society? This study was set in the urban slum of Balubad, located in Marikina city, The Philippines. It employed qualitative research methods, including individual interviews with a semi-structured questionnaire, and informal discussions. Two categories of respondent were selected by systematic and purposive sampling, and included community female and male respondents and practitioners of different healing systems. I found three significant trends: firstly, biomedical and alternative health practices exist in parallel but are not mixed. Secondly, there is little possibility of biomedical and alternative health professionals working together; they prefer to stay separate. Finally, although there is enormous socio-economic disparity between biomedical professionals and alternative healers, there is no tension between the two groups.

Author Biography

Nazrul Islam, Department of Sociology, University of Hong Kong

Md. Nazrul Islam is currently completing his PhD in medical anthropology at the Department of Sociology, University of Hong Kong. Prior to this he was a German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Fellow in the Department of Tropical Hygiene and Public Health, University of Heidelberg during which time he undertook fieldwork in the Philippines. He can be contacted at nazrul(AT)