According to Donna Matheson, western medicine is often synonymous to and plays a major role in cultural imperialism. For some time, European scientists used race as a means to explain important medical phenomenon that in actuality had nothing to do with race at all. Race, as we know, is a social construct and most certainly not a scientific one. Patricia Barton articulates the imperialist sentiment and issues of race in medicine among europeans and the colonial bodies they studied in the Indian empire specifically. Race became the explanation for why some races could take more malaria medication and others could not for example. Diagnoses and interpretations of illnesses were riddled with racist attitudes. Western doctors and scientists saw western medical practices as superior to traditional medicinal practices performed in non western territories. Matheson highlights the recent focus on Human rights issues and every human’s right to health. However, in places like Angola this human rights issue takes a backseat to other more pressing challenges.
Within western medicine, there is a debate among those in the discipline who challenge the established medical model and those who support the longstanding biomedical framework. The current framework explains and classifies the characteristics of disease. It is a model that is rooted in molecular biology and the ability for chemistry and physics to explain all biological phenomena. Reductionists support the current model and believe there is some way to fit behavioral and psychological illness into the framework and conversation. Exclusionists believe that an illness is not a disease if it does not in some way fit the overarching framework and therefore should be excluded medical focus. Those in favor of a new model support the biopsychosocial model. This model encompasses the biomedical framework as well as the behavioral/social side of disease often seen in mental illness.
Perhaps western medicine has taken steps to solve the problem of cultural imperialization as well as the exclusion of psychological disease/illness. There is now a mental health conference called “Medicine Words” that blends indigenous healing practices with western psychology. The conference recognizes both indigenous healing practices and psychology as legitimate medicinal subjects that must be discussed as well as studied. The conferences brings together legitimate medical professionals in order to allow them to share and merge their ideas. It gives minorities and psychologists a voice in an arena that has historically ignored what they have to say.