The role of civil society organizations in the institutionalization of indigenous medicine in Bolivia

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December 2013 marked a significant shift in Bolivia with the enactment of a law for the inclusion of indigenous doctors in the National Health System. This article traces the constellation of forces that led to the institutionalization of indigenous medicine in Bolivia. It identifies three factors contributing to this health policy change. The first factor is the crystallization of a strong indigenous movement fighting for the recognition of cultural rights through the foundation of civil society organizations. Second is the rise to power of Evo Morales, the first Latin American president of indigenous origin, who has promoted multicultural policies, formally supported through the promulgation of a new constitution. Lastly is the influence of the global acceptance of alternative medicine. Indigenous doctor organizations in Bolivia have been highly involved throughout the entire process of institutionalization and have played a crucial role in it. An analysis of the relationship between these civil society organizations and the Bolivian government reveals a strong partnership. This dynamic can be described in terms of Interdependence Theory, as each party relied on the other in the promotion and practice of the law to achieve the integration of indigenous medicine as part of the Bolivian Health System.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-294
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Bolivia
  • Civil society
  • Health policy
  • Indigenous medicine
  • Multiculturalism


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