Title : Towards decolonizing medicine and healthcare: The place of African health and healing traditions and innovation
Global inequalities today derive in part from unequal power relations in the way knowledge about progress and development has historically been produced and applied. Traditional medicine and therapeutic techniques have a long history in Africa for treating a wide range of human and animal health conditions. Sadly, this rich body of knowledge and other facets of African knowledge systems have for a long time been undervalued because of the undue dominance of Eurocentric mindsets and practices. But current research confirms that many of today’s medicines are derived from tropical African medicinal plants, and that traditional medicine can provide a lead to scientific breakthrough in drug discovery and modern medicine. We argue that global health science needs to integrate the health traditions and innovations of local communities in Africa. With colonialism, modernization and globalization, and the new emphasis on drug use, vaccination and other form of biomedicine, traditional medicine has come to be misrepresented as obsolete and irrelevant because it does not always appear to conform with the scientific principles of modern medicine, least of all the spiritual and cultural aspects of healing that sometimes involve belief in divination, witchcraft, and so on. Many scientists and government officials distrust traditional medicine, and insist on the need for to validate, codify and standardize it practice in order to ensure greater safety and efficacy. They therefore often hesitate to provide the regulatory and legislative framework for integrating traditional medicine into the national health system Unfortunately, modern medicine, with all its obvious merits, is not readily accessible and affordable to a large percentage of the populations, especially in the rural areas; and even in cities most people combine traditional and modern medicines, especially during epidemics like HIV/AIDS EBOLA and COVID19, for which Western medicine did not appear to provide ready cure. The paper underscores the value and continuing relevance of traditional medicine and other aspects of Africa’s rich cultural heritage. It stresses the need to promote comparative medicine and collaboration between scientists and practitioners of modern medicine on the one hand, and on the other those who hold and use traditional medical knowledge, so that the traditional and the modern will complement and enrich each other, and thus advance the prospect of attaining Universal Health Coverage.
Audience Take Away Notes:
- Researchers and the development community will appreciate the value of African knowledge systems
- I believe that it is a modest contribution to the study of comparative medicine, and could help to achieve Universal Health Coverage