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July 2021

Soc Sci Med. 1987 ; 25(10): 1147-55.

Ethnomedical treatment of children's diarrheal illnesses in the highlands of Ecuador.

McKee L.

Department of Anthropology, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA 17604-3003.

In rural communities in the Ecuadorian Highlands, gastrointestinal disease is the leading cause of death. This paper proposes a model of the world view that specifies the factors that condition illness or health and a traditional taxonomy that relies on certain criteria to categorize three classes of diarrhea. These determine whether ethnomedical or medical treatment will be used to 'cure' a child. The three illness classes: diarrhea produced by supernatural forces, by humoral imbalances, and by 'infection' differ etiologically. The ambient air and its temperatures, the constitution, humoral state and overt personality characteristics (character) of the individual, and the predelictions of the evil spirits that seek to sap their vital essence all figure in the origins of illness. The model of the world view is related to a folk taxonomy, which, it is asserted, provides a charter for families' responses to child illness, that more often than not, are appropriate under the economic conditions they suffer.

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