Traditional and Modern Health Practices

Indonesia Table of Contents

Although there was a 3.2 percent annual decline in infant mortality since 1960, in 1990, according to some accounts, nearly 5.5 percent of babies born to Indonesian mothers still did not survive to their first birthday, the lowest figures for all ASEAN countries. Other sources reported a higher rate--10 percent--for infant mortality. The situation varied regionally, from a low of about 6 percent mortality in Yogyakarta, where a colonial legacy of public health programs left behind an educated populace, to almost 19 percent infant mortality rates in Nusa Tenggara Timur Province.

Dukun--traditional healers--continued to play an important role in the health care of the population in the early 1990s. Often, dukun were used in conjunction with Westernstyle medicine. In some rural areas, these healers represented a treatment option of first resort, especially when there was no community health center nearby, or if the only Western health care available was expensive or the facility understaffed. The manner of healing differed greatly among the hundreds of ethnic groups, but often these healers used extensive knowledge of herbal medicines and invoked supernatural legitimacy for their practice.

The use of Western-style medical clinics was rising in the last decades of the twentieth century, however, the Department of Health estimated that dukun attended upwards of 90 percent of rural births. Following childbirth, women in many parts of the archipelago engaged in the practice of "roasting." Although different ethnic groups have different explanations for the practice, it usually involves the seclusion of the mother and her child for a period of time following childbirth--from a few weeks to months--in order to submit herself to prolonged exposure to the warmth of a hearth or other source of heat. In general, it is believed that this speeds the process of recovery, but many believe it helps replace a woman's lost blood, returns her body to a trim and fit shape, and helps "dry her out."

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress