|African Indigenous Medicine - An Anthropological Perspective for Policy Makers and Primary Health Care Managers (AMREF, 1992, 50 p.)|
Little has been written about indigenous African medicine and the health practices of traditional healers. There is, therefore, a real danger that such knowledge will be lost when the healers pass away unless the information is carefully recorded by scientists who have been born and bred among them and have even benefited from treatment by traditional healers. There is a very vital need to document information on indigenous concepts of illness and health, indigenous health practitioners, indigenous health service delivery and development and the implications of all these for cosmopolitan medicine.
The author, with vast experience in health behavioural sciences and being indigenous himself, has ably attempted to present clearly, in easily readable form, all the features of African indigenous medicine and also described the situation pertaining to the utilization of cosmopolitan medicine within the context of indigenous cultures and therapies in Kenya. It is very fitting for an African scientist to be writing on such a subject. To do so well and accurately, the author has had to travel widely in Kenya, live with people of diverse cultures and gain confidence from the traditional healers, who then voluntarily narrated the information to him. He also had to listen patiently, interpreting without bias the information provided while he conducted ethnographic studies and surveys. This information forms the basis of this book.
The days are gone or going when African indigenous health systems were considered with suspicion as based on myths and labelled primitive. Anyone using this approach now would be failing to keep pace with what is happening elsewhere, for instance, in China or Japan. The author of this book has been influenced to share his knowledge by perceiving that, although cosmopolitan medicine is widely used in Kenya, the majority of lay people still hold concepts of health and illness which are largely indigenous, yet health workers have little understanding of such concepts. This book provides the understanding they need to help them appreciate difficulties encountered in the course of their practice among Africans.
After careful analysis of the indigenous health practices, it may be deemed necessary to introduce relevant information about them in curricula for training health workers. Revision along these lines is overdue.
The author also describes possible disadvantages in indigenous health systems, such as scarification, incision and excision. Caution is necessary in this age of the scourge of HIV infection as these practices carry the risk of spreading the infection.
The policy makers' task is made easier since there is now adequate information on indigenous health practices to help them in understanding the implications of indigenous medicine and health service delivery in relation to cosmopolitan medicine.
NIMROD O. BWIBO, MRCP, FAAP, MPH
Director, Training Department