USP Theses Collection


close this section of the library Medical care--Tonga

View the PDF document "It is health we want" : a conceptual view of traditional and non-traditional health practices in Tonga with special emphasis on maternal child health and family planning
Author: Bloomfield, Siosiane Fanua.
Institution: University of the South Pacific.
Award: M.A.
Subject: Mother and child--Health and hygiene--Tonga, Medical care--Tonga, Birth control--Tonga
Date: 1986.
Call No.: Pac RA 558 .T6 B4
BRN: 5232
Copyright:Under 10% of this thesis may be copied without the authors written permission

Abstract: Health, illness and cure in Tonga were, and still are, attributed by the majority of the people to sanctions of the supernaturals. All the interviewed adults in Tafahi island and Nukunuku village, Tongatapu, believed that breaking of tapu belonging to persons or things with mana could generate illness or other misfortune to those concerned. Likewise curers and cures are viewed as only vaka (boats) for the healing power of God. Despite these beliefs, people on the whole also believed that there are Tongan diseases and European diseases which should be treated by Tongan traditional and modern medicines respectively. Since the Tongan society is homogenous, some 98% of its nearly 100,000 people being indigenous Polynesians, it is assumed that the information obtained from Tafahi island and Nukunuku village, where the research for this study was concentrated, would be very similar to those in other parts of Tonga. There are four categories of health care practice currently functioning in Tonga, They are modern, traditional, religious and card playing. Of these four, the modern and traditional are the most dominant in the society. Modern health care is the official category of care in Tonga, as well as that most preferred according to the majority of people. It is however, not uncommon for two or more of these categories to be administered simultaneously to a sick person, without any official prohibition. The social aspect of health is highly valued in Tonga. Health is a feeling that all is well with one: a feeling of monutonu; a feeling that is relating to the satisfactory knowing that one has done his/her duties towards the land, God and fellow humans. The perserverance of such a feeling may compel Tongans to give all they have to the church or to put up a big feast for customary celebrations without thinking of tomorrow. Tonga is a male dominated society but the women are held in great respect. Furthermore, the women's role on mohe ofi; of teaching the children when very young to know themselves in relation to others in society, is of paramount importance to the maintenance of peace within the institution of the family as well as in the whole society. Children have always been welcome and accepted as manifestations that one is looked upon favourably by the supernaturals. The concepts of 'ofa (love) and fanau (ability to have children) are closely related. The importance of such concepts in Tongan society is demonstrated in the sharing of children with others who have few or no children as pusiaki (adopted). But pusiaki appears also to be designed as a method of revitalising distant kinship. And kinship is greatly valued in the Tongan society. It follows then that, because it is alien to the Tongan way of thinking, the concept of family planning is difficult to accept by the people. Although there are many traditional medicines available to encourage fertility, there appears to be very little to discourage fertility . Likewise, there are numerous traditional medicines to keep children healthy when compared to those available for gynaecological problems. Moreover, women on the whole tend not to complain of gynaecological conditions. Religion permeates all areas of the Tongan society. Inevitably it has always played a great part in curing. Although nearly 100% of the population are supposed to be Christian, there is no denying that many aspects of the Tongan ancient religion are still at large. The institutions of tapu and mana, for instance, have embraced all aspects of the Tongan culture, and without them the existing fabric of Tongan society would disintegrate.
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