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

Published: 7 July 2016
Author(s): P. Charlier, Y. Coppens, J. Malaurie, L. Brun, M. Kepanga, V. Hoang-Opermann, J.A. Correa Calfin, G. Nuku, M. Ushiga, X.E. Schor, S. Deo, J. Hassin, C. Hervé
Issue: July 2016
Section: Original Article

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many practitioners (hospital and liberals) and researchers (including public health), the WHO definition of health is outdated: first it seems more utopian than pragmatic; then, it proves unsuitable for a large part of the world population.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.