The traditional healer in obstetric care: A persistent wasted opportunity in maternal health

Social Science & Medicine
Volume 132, Pages 1-286 (May 2015)


The traditional healer in obstetric care: A persistent wasted opportunity in maternal health
Original Research Article
Pages 59-66
Raymond Akawire Aborigo, Pascale Allotey, Daniel D. Reidpath
Traditional medical systems in low income countries remain the first line service of choice, particularly for rural communities. Although the role of traditional birth attendants (TBAs) is recognised in many primary health care systems in low income countries, other types of traditional practitioners have had less traction. We explored the role played by traditional healers in northern Ghana in managing pregnancy-related complications and examined their relevance to current initiatives to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality. A grounded theory qualitative approach was employed. Twenty focus group discussions were conducted with TBAs and 19 in-depth interviews with traditional healers with expertise in managing obstetric complications. Traditional healers are extensively consulted to manage obstetric complications within their communities. Their clientele includes families who for either reasons of access or traditional beliefs, will not use modern health care providers, or those who shop across multiple health systems. The traditional practitioners claim expertise in a range of complications that are related to witchcraft and other culturally defined syndromes; conditions for which modern health care providers are believed to lack expertise. Most healers expressed a willingness to work with the formal health services because they had unique knowledge, skills and the trust of the community. However this would require a stronger acknowledgement and integration within safe motherhood programs.