Why Traditional Caribbean Medicines Have a Place in the American Healthcare System – Caribbean Life


If you grew up in a Caribbean household like me, you know that for every little sniffle, there’s a natural remedy in your grandmother’s or mother’s kitchen or garden. The age old tradition of using herbal treatments for general wellness, colds and even chronic illnesses has worked for centuries in Caribbean communities. Aloe vera, arrowroot, lemon, honey, fennel seed, ginger, green tea and more – a trip to the local pharmacy is sometimes unnecessary when these natural remedies are within reach tomorrow.

As a Caribbean woman born and raised in the heart of Brooklyn, these practical, inexpensive approaches have been the therapeutic answer for me since I was growing up. Today, my children know about these natural remedies because I raised them the same way my mother raised me. Whenever there was an itchy throat, I knew that a good layer of minty ointment, combined with a cup of tea with fresh lemon, ginger and honey before bed, would probably make them feel better when they woke up for school or work the next day. .

A medicinal perspective rooted in the long held belief that there is a natural remedy to treat everything from a rash to high blood pressure has become the way to treat various conditions for generations. Today, more than one million Caribbean Americans reside in New York State, and many have embraced a similar form of healing to help hedge against the high costs of health care coverage for them. themselves and their families. In addition to a desire for savings, there is a general reluctance to abandon herbal remedies in favor of prescribed drugs.

In many cases, traditional Caribbean remedies have been an effective method of providing treatment for families’ needs. Yet a tendency to trust home remedies in a non-emergency medical situation rather than the healthcare system creates a ripple effect of delayed doctor’s appointments, screenings and checkups. A reactive approach has resulted in Caribbean Americans being disproportionately affected by preventable chronic diseases and having higher rates of hypertension, arthritis and diabetes over their lifetime.

Health care providers and practitioners need to do more to establish a proactive, culturally appropriate model that accommodates Caribbean American culture while addressing the reality of chronic illnesses that lead to higher mortality rates.

Cup of ginger root tea with lemon, honey and mint on wooden background. Getty Images/BlackChocolate

We can do both

An improved system of care means having culturally competent healthcare professionals who incorporate community remedies into their model and understand the measurable impact it will have on social, physical, and mental health outcomes in Caribbean Americans. People need and deserve to be represented in the health care system. For MetroPlusHealth, New York City’s five-star health plan, hiring health leaders who look, sound like and deeply understand the nuances of America’s Caribbean communities is critical to how the organization serves New -Yorkers. This means providing a customer service team that speaks over 40 languages ​​and reflects the wide diaspora of those seeking coverage. Speaking a common language or dialect is essential for providers to care for the community.

Practical solutions for change

The traditional health care system is excessively one-dimensional. Better care isn’t as simple as encouraging people to see a doctor regularly, check their sugar levels, and cut back on the unhealthy parts of their beloved cultural foods. To ensure the health of a community, awareness of low-cost options must be increased. Cost is a critical factor when choosing a health insurance plan. For example, MetroPlusHealth offers affordable holistic care. Exclusive perks include a fitness membership that rewards members for prioritizing their health. The rewards program also gives points to members by encouraging habits such as refilling prescriptions and drinking water.

In and with New York communities

Preventive care means reaching out to communities long before they are in the emergency room. It starts with annual health checkups, but also includes providing information in a way that speaks to Caribbean Americans. Sometimes the community may not identify with the images they see in health resources or meeting spaces to provide health services. MetroPlusHealth relies on trusted community centers, such as churches and hair salons, to provide proactive treatments such as blood pressure testing. MetroPlusHealth also prioritizes attendance at events important to the Caribbean community, such as the West Indian Day Parade, to meet the community where they are.

Herbal remedies and Western medical practices are part of today’s healthcare landscape. It is the caregiver’s role to create a holistic system that meets the needs and customs of the American Caribbean.

Lesleigh “LIU” Irish-Underwood is Head of Brand and External Relations at MetroPlusHealth.


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