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How To Get People To See A Doctor When They Don't Want To

A new study looks at why the Tsimane people of Bolivia often avoid seeking medical care — and what might change their minds.
The Tsimane, who live in the Bolivian Amazon, often avoid going to the doctor — even if there's free medical care available in their community. Source: Michael Gurven

The Tsimane people, descendants of the Incas, are among the most isolated people in Bolivia. They number about 16,000 and live in 80 mostly riverbank villages of 50 to several hundred people scattered across about 3,000 square miles of Amazon jungle. They are forager-farmers who fish, hunt, cut down jungle trees with machetes and produce an average of nine children per family, says Michael Gurven, chair of the Integrated Anthropological Sciences Unit at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Gurven has visited and studied the Tsimane people for 16 years. Last month, he and colleagues published a paper in the journal on why these impoverished people, who live), often won't take advantage of medical care, even when it's free and offered by people they've come to trust.

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