Traditional medicine and indigenous health practices.

Traditional medicine and indigenous health practices.
Guarantee indigenous peoples’ right to health, including sexual rights and reproductive rights, and their right to their own traditional medicines and health practices, especially as regards reducing maternal and child mortality considering their socio-territorial and cultural specificities as well as the structural factors that hinder the exercise of this right.
Priority measure number


This priority measure is complementary to the targets and indicators included in priority measure 26 on bringing health policies into line with the epidemiological profile, and with chapter D (“Universal access to sexual and reproductive health services”), especially priority measures 37, 40, 44 and 45, in which the particular situation of indigenous women and peoples must be taken into account. Some of the indicators proposed need to be made operational and may entail developing instruments for their measurement.

Possible lines of action

1. Promulgate specific national legislation on the right of indigenous peoples to health, including sexual and reproductive health, and prepare regulations, standards and protocols for its application. 2. Develop intercultural health policies and programmes that include sexual and reproductive health, through negotiation of agreements, consensuses and mutual understandings, and a genuine recognition of the know-how, languages, world view and health concepts of indigenous peoples, in particular of women, adolescents and youth. 3. Promote and strengthen traditional indigenous medicine, considering each of its components: traditional indigenous agents or therapists, traditional knowledge, and natural resources. 4. Conduct comprehensive evaluations of traditional medicine, identifying the elements that make it effective and therapeutic, and complementing the empirical set of practices with symbolic and cultural dimensions. 5. Strengthen the production of information and knowledge on health problems that affect indigenous peoples, considering the indigenous world-view and using participatory processes. 6. Boost national capacities, both of State agencies and of indigenous organizations, for applying and managing intercultural and linguistically relevant health care. 7. Strengthen processes for the empowerment of indigenous women, which are crucial for their free determination.

Related instruments, forums and mechanisms

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (see priority measure 85).

The World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and its outcome, which declares specifically: “12. We recognize the importance of indigenous peoples’ health practices and their traditional medicine and knowledge”, and “13. We commit ourselves to ensuring that indigenous individuals have equal access to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. We also commit ourselves to intensifying efforts to reduce rates of HIV and AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and non-communicable diseases by focusing on prevention, including through appropriate programmes, policies and resources for indigenous individuals, and to ensure their access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conference.”

 Monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals must take into account the particular situation of indigenous persons, pursuant to Goal 3.

Indigenous people