Original Article| Volume 37, P33-37, January 2017

A new definition of health? An open letter of autochthonous peoples and medical anthropologists to the WHO


      • Autochthonous communities may provide new objectives for a revised WHO definition of health.
      • Variables as human equilibrium in nature, accepted spirituality and adaptation are described and proposed.
      • These propositions highlight the importance of medical anthropology for enhancing international public health policies.


      Currently, for many practitioners (hospital and liberals) and researchers (including public health), the WHO definition of health is outdated: first it seems more utopian than pragmatic; then, it proves unsuitable for a large part of the world population. There is clearly a need to refine this definition or propose additional criteria to be more relevant or discriminating. In this perspective, what can indigenous people offer in the elaboration of a new definition of health?
      In this article, leaders or representatives of autochthonous peoples, anthropologists and physicians from many cultural origins (Amazonia, Patagonia, Papua New-Guinea, Inuit, North-American Indian, sub-Saharan Africa, India, China, Melanesia and Polynesia) have tried to identify and explain several key concepts that WHO should reintegrate into its new definition of health: human equilibrium in nature, accepted spirituality and adaptation.
      On the sidelines of the application of COP21 decisions that should give back to man his place into the environment, autochthonous people leaders, anthropologists and MDs explain why these three concepts are fundamental and universal health determinants, and need to be included in a new WHO definition of health.


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