Tag Archives: Complementary Medicine

Integration of orthodox and complementary medicine in Africa: 7 ways it can be done

By Denis Mumwi
TAPSA, Tanzania

Health delivery system is the coordination of institutions, resources and people involved in health care services provision to meet the health needs of the population. Transformation of health delivery systems in Africa aims at improving the delivery of services to Africans.

Integration of orthodox and complementary medicine in health delivery systems focuses on bringing changes and improving health delivery by making mainstream medicine and non mainstream medicine work together.

Orthodox medicine involves services provided by healthcare professionals who have attained educational qualifications as required by the curriculum, while complementary medicine involves health care practitioners with non curriculum qualifications.

The following are aspects with suggestions which can be targets through which integration of orthodox and complementary medicine can be established to bring transformation of health delivery systems in Africa as they are the main aspects that bring challenges;

1.Registration and licensing of health delivery practitioners

The legal system should be accessible and cooperative in the registration of traditional or complementary medicine practitioners as they face hindrances in accessing the legal bodies because they are less prioritized compared to orthodox medicine practitioners. Good registration system will avoid false health delivery experts and build trust in the society.

2. Environment for delivery of health services

Most of places for traditional healing are poorly located – they are difficult to reach as they can be caves or in the midst of huge forests giving a hard task to the sick. Traditional healers should be located in areas that can be easily reached by people in order to ease health delivery. Appropriate location is important for both orthodox and complementary medicine.

3. Diagnosis prior to treatment

Diagnosis of the problem before treatment will help in increasing the accuracy of treatment for both orthodox and complementary medicine. Complementary medicine healers should be assisted to know proper diagnostic procedures as many symptoms are similar for different diseases. This will improve the quality of health services.

4. Medicines, efficiency of treatment and cost effectiveness

There should be testing for safety of medicinal substances to ensure the right dosage at the right time for the right condition at affordable prices. Pollutants should be minimized especially in complementary medicine to enable quantity measuring and thus the efficiency of treatment is increased.

5. Information and equipment technology

Patient records should be well recorded so as to monitor the progress of treatment which is helpful for knowing its efficiency, controlling its side effects and assessing its compliance. Also, proper and sterilized equipment should be used to prevent spread of diseases. This should be an obligation for both orthodox and complementary medicine.

6.Education to successive generations

There should be proper teaching techniques to help in the passing of knowledge from one generation to another, especially for complementary medicine where traditional healers are reluctant to teach others. Complementary medicine should be included in the education curriculum and taught in classes as this will preserve the knowledge and also lead to innovations of treatments.

7. Medical researches

This will improve treatment as new discoveries rely on research. This should be encouraged especially for complementary medicine where research is not prioritized.

Conclusion

Complementary medicine provides a base for orthodox medicine as it gives preliminary clues to treatment. Hence the integration of orthodox and complementary medicine enhances the transformation of health delivery system in Africa.

dmumwi7@gmail.com

Transformation of health delivery systems in Africa with the integration of orthodox and complementary medicine

By Ekpoh Mfonobong
PANS, Nigeria

Africa has about 54 countries divided into regions: North Africa, Sahel, West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa. The continent’s continuing struggle with communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB), parasitic diseases and poor primary and obstetric care has been a major factor in stalling the development and extension of healthcare services in African countries at even the most basic level (Janssen 2011). The healthcare delivery system has a role to play in Africa’s experience of disproportionate burden of poverty, disease, and death with appalling disparities within and between countries (Kaseje 2006).

Health is an integral part of life and its expedient that Africa’s healthcare system is re-assessed for viability. Orthodox medicine in its own sense, trains general medical practitioners to comprehensively treat the whole patient and to refer to specialists only when patients present ailments exceeding the knowledge and skills of the practitioner. Moreover, consumer-led demands for alternative therapies allow many people to seek care from a wide variety of traditions, each of which has its own anecdotal claims of success (Touyz 2012). Hence, integration of orthodox medicine with complementary medicine would be valuable.

Africa is a continent blessed with vast herbs whose medicinal value knowledge is handed down through generations, alongside the benefits of alternative medicine practices such as acupuncture, biofeedback etc. Previously, traditional medicine was presumed to be dangerous and produce side effects, which would be treated by orthodox medicine or lead to deterioration of the patient’s health. However, only decoctions, herbal products sourced from inappropriate centers, or products used in unidentified disease conditions and with insufficient advice on therapy regimen result in such scenarios (Asare 2016). Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) and different excipients are obtained from nature. Correcting the wrong notions of complementary medicine, and accepting it the way orthodox medicine has ‘won the heart’ of most practitioners, would make appropriate integration less challenging.

More products from nature are being produced and marketed, with claims to be effective in treatment of various diseases, eg Gingko biloba proven to benefit brain function; moringa seeds, leaves and extracts proven to contain phytochemicals beneficial to health. Also, acupuncture has been effective in stress management. For better healthcare systems, the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) of orthodox medicine by various pharmaceutical companies are monitored timely. Similarly, for improved desired outcomes on patients’ quality of life, SOPs of herbal medicines should be regulated too, to prevent interference with the pharmacology of orthodox medicine. To spike interest in future healthcare professionals, alternative medicine should be taken more seriously in our institutions, with well-balanced tutoring on its basics and the benefits of its integration. Also, herbalists and other professionals of complementary medicine should become members of the healthcare team. Moreover, a balance in the basic knowledge of both medicines is necessary for these professionals.

These natural products and techniques in combination with orthodox medicine would speed up recovery, boost health and general immunity, increase appreciation of the blessings of nature and help reassess the cost of wellbeing in order to accommodate all strata of the economy. Also, standardized complementary healthcare would provide affordable healthcare for vulnerable groups as most times patients purchase medicines at high cost compared to their standard of living.

Health must be viewed as a central element of productivity rather than as an unproductive consumer of public budgets (Kaseje 2006). The ‘tides’ in healthcare demands of Africans are changing, our system is at a turning point, thus, all hands must be on deck as this course is an all-encompassing one.

mfonobongekpoh@gmail.com

References

  1. A Presentation on ‘Healthcare in Africa: Challenges, Opportunities and an Emerging Model for Improvement’ by Dan Kaseje, Great Lakes University of Kisumu, November 2006.
  2. An Article on ‘Herbal Medicine vs Orthodox Medicine, The Wrong Attitude’ by Bentil Asare, 2016.
  3. Louis ZG Touyz (2012). Alternative and Orthodox Medicine and the “ODD” Principle. Curr Oncol.; 19(02); 64-65
  4. The Future of Healthcare in Africa. A Report from the Economic Intelligence Unit sponsored by Janssen, 2011.

 

Integration of orthodox and complementary medicine: China has done it, Africa can do it too!

By Peris Thuo
KEPhSA, Kenya

Africa, My Motherland! She has evolved over the years from the exclusive use of traditional to embracing modern medicine. The world is watching as our continent strives to live up to its full potential in areas such as healthcare, education and infrastructure.

Health care delivery systems involve structured organizations of people, institutions and resources to ensure that the health needs of a target population are met. This remains to be an enormous challenge in Africa in areas such as leadership, governance, financing and accountability. The international finance corporation estimates that 25 to 30 billion US dollars are needed over the next decade to meet healthcare demand in Africa.

Complementary medicine refers to the health practice that approaches knowledge and beliefs incorporating plant, animal, mineral-based and spiritual therapy. These are either applied alone or in combination in diagnosis, disease prevention and maintenance of well being. We are now at a time where history is repeating itself and many patients are opting for complementary medicine. This is due to frustration for lack of cures for chronic diseases, affordability and accessibility. In addition, patients feel that they have more control over management of their treatment when using alternative treatment options and alternative medicine is viewed as safer than conventional medicine.

Effective incorporation of complementary medicine to health care systems would require proper policy and regulation. This is a big challenge in my country Kenya as it is estimated that nine in ten herbalists are fake. Most of these fake herbalists are based in our capital, Nairobi. They exploit vulnerable and gullible patients, mainly those suffering from chronic illness for commercial gain. This has contributed to the lack of faith in complementary medicine by the general public.

There is need for establishment of trust between health researchers and the genuine herbalists in order to successfully achieve this. Genuine herbalists are mainly based in the village. They are very skeptical about sharing their formulas with researchers for fear of exploitation. An ancestral aspect is also involved as most of these formulas have been passed from generation to generation. They fear that commercialization would not appease the ancestors. Trust has to be established between the two parties through establishment of proper policies to ensure that the genuine herbalist is protected.

Kenyatta National Teaching and Referral Hospital, Nairobi is the biggest of its kind in East and Central Africa. Research was conducted in the hospital to analyze the number of patients who use complementary medicine in addition to modern medicine. It was found that a number of inpatients would take their complementary medicine at night after the nurses had administered prescribed drugs and left the wards. Majority had not informed the physician that they were on these drugs. Reasons cited were: the physicians never asked, they would not understand, they would disapprove and the overall relationship between the physician and the patient would be affected.

Complementary medicine cannot be successfully incorporated if the physicians themselves have no faith in it. There is need for continuous medical education about the benefits of complementary medicine. Regulation of these medicines is crucial in ensuring that physicians can readily prescribe them to patients without hesitation.

Funding of complementary medicine research is mandatory. It is not possible to incorporate it to healthcare delivery systems unless all the necessary research and trials have been carried out. New delivery systems ought to be developed. A change in mindset is needed.

China has done it, Africa can do it too!

perrythuo@gmail.com