The New Idea
In talking to campesinos, indigenous people, and urban dwellers, Hernán realized that many Mexicans have a vision of the world that explains sickness and health in very different terms from western medicine.Millions of Mexicans might seem to respond to the language of the local clinic, but Hernán has found that they also hold on to a second "channel" that needs to be understood by health educators if they are to obtain results that are not superficial or contradictory. This second channel provides a vision of the world in which man is closely connected with the supernatural. In simple terms, it is a world divided in two parts: above ground is male-dominated by warmth and light, vitality; beneath is the earth which is female-cool, dark and fertile. A malady which would be diagnosed in one way by western-trained doctor is often explained by traditional medicine in terms of the balance between hot and cold. This balance can be affected by climate, diet, human relations, and the will of the gods. Hernán is doing research on traditional healing techniques and is incorporating this knowledge into health-education programs to make them more culturally sensitive and thus, more effective. His work is a bridge between ancient knowledge and modern science, and he is working to see that it is taken up as a model by other health educators.