Integrating folk healers in India's public health: acceptance, legitimacy and emancipation


  • Maarten Bode
  • G. Hariramamurthi


Indian medicine comes in two forms. On the one hand there are almost 600,000 practitioners of Indian medicine with an officially sanctioned degree. On the other we have one to two million local herbal healers who have a semi legal status. Though their expertise and services are in demand these health care providers are under pressure due to their semi-legal status, the aggressive marketing of biomedical drugs, and biomedicine's social prestige. The article wants to give the reader an insight into the diversity of village healers (gram vaidyas) in South India. Who are these folk healers? Which patients do they attract and for what reasons? What are the push and pull factors for patients to make use of them? How can their skills be evaluated and improved upon? What recent initiatives have been taken in this respect? Does the sharing of a local moral world between patients and healers contribute to the effectiveness of treatments? Do local health practices contribute to Universal Health Coverage as defined by the World Health Organization?