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To integrate or not to integrate: how can ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ health care systems work together in Africa?

Nyamambi, B   Kilonzo, S   Mugwagwa, J

DSA Conference 2015

Bath, UK

September 7 – 8 2015

The challenge of providing reliable health care services in Africa cannot be over-­-emphasized. The inadequacy of government and private services is real, and has resulted in the persistent presence of supplementary efforts from traditional health care practitioners, despite long-­-standing questions by sceptics about the efficacy and quality of service provided by the latter group. Highlighting the important role played by the local context in refracting and embedding health solutions, this paper brings together our research work and lived experiences, in which, among others, we have observed traditional surgeries performed by men and women without formal education and long queues of patients waiting to be attended by indigenous medicine-­-men and women. We have anecdotal and documented evidence of urban and rural people who rely on traditional medicine entirely, or in tandem with modern health care systems. This paper uses case studies from Kenya and Zimbabwe to highlight and discuss the existence and use of traditional approaches to health care in dealing with complicated diseases and illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS and extensive injuries. Further, the paper examines efforts to integrate traditional medical practices into mainline medical practice and the policy and practice challenges and opportunities emanating from this. We argue that through innovative and adaptive governance and delivery mechanisms, linked intricately to local contexts, it is possible for a synergistic and sustainable integration of the two systems to emerge.

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