About this Research Topic
This Research Topic departs from the discourse and practice of integrating medical knowledge systems, namely indigenous or traditional and western medical systems considered important by governments and international agencies for improving health services. The public health interests in integrating medical knowledge systems in this African region can be understood from a number of perspectives. Firstly, indigenous or traditional medicine continues to be widely used, and is indeed a primary resource particularly for populations underserved by biomedical institutions. Attempts have been made by governments to institutionalize and regulate traditional medicine and its practitioners, to ensure it is subjected to rigorous testing and monitoring of standards to safeguard safety. The second is the poor state of the healthcare services in the region. Besides the socio-economic challenges and poverty, many countries in the region have experienced great loss of skilled medical professionals to the lure of opportunities in the global north to the detriment of their healthcare systems. Lastly, shifts in the nature of disease from acute communicable infections to non-communicable, chronic conditions is challenging because there may be no drugs for some conditions, not to mention the growing resistance to existing drugs, including antibiotics which could explain the popularity of herbal medicine.
The declarations made by governments and international organizations, after the 1978 Alma Ata Declaration which recognized traditional medicine and its practitioners as an important resource for achieving health for all could be understood, from the perspectives outlined above. Many countries have introduced regulations to formalize traditional medicine and practitioners with local variations across the sub-Saharan African landscape. Traditional healers’ associations have been formed and are required to register officially. This recognition can also be seen as part of the decolonization project, particularly given the colonial history of outlawing and labelling traditional medicine ‘demonic’. This is one reason for our focus on Africa South of Sahara.
While integration is clearly critical for meeting the emerging health demands or averting the rising costs of western medicine, the main question is whether it aims to, or has promoted, the unique elements of both systems as part of improving healthcare. Cultural familiarity is often mentioned as a justification for integration, but the question is whether there is any serious reflection on the cultural change taking place since the colonial intervention when traditional medicine was outlawed, or as a result of the ensuing modernization processes. Cultural familiarity discourse notwithstanding, only some elements of traditional medicine mainly the herbal medicine, appear to be chosen for integration. The question then is whether this does not lead to further isolation of herbal medicine from spirituality or the non-material aspects and knowledge. How does this affect the holistic perspective of traditional medicine?
We welcome manuscripts addressing the following themes:
1) How have the colonial intervention and outlawing of traditional medicine continued to influence it? Is the discourse of traditional medicine, relegated to the colonial epoch, re-emerging to access the formal urban space?
2) How do healers advertise themselves for the diseases they treat in the urban space? In what ways has traditional healing become commercialized?
3) Is the emerging combination of intergenerational learning of traditional medicine and formal medical education a form of integration?
4) What is the role of electronic media on traditional medicine and how has e-TM and online media changed traditional medicine?
5) What is the role of the global herbal industry in the survival of herbal plants and environmental protection?
6) What is the role of traditional medical knowledge and practice in governance, environmental and social control in communities today?
7) How has traditional medicine responded to emerging communicable and non-communicable diseases including those categorized as lifestyle diseases such as HIV/AIDS?
8) What are the emerging uses of traditional medicine in the face of globalization and the evolving needs such as gaining and protecting wealth, ensuring success for example, in sports?
9) What role do traditional religious rituals play in trafficking in human beings in the global migration?
10) How has colonial and post-colonial legacy and gaps changed the role of women in traditional healing, besides the traditional birth attendance profession which has a space in contemporary formal reproductive health care?
11) What interventions are needed for a more fruitful communication between traditional medical practitioners and western medical professionals?
12) What is the state of patient and family-centered care and psychotherapy in traditional medicine today?
13) What are the different forms and meanings of traditional medicine in sub-Saharan Africa as ‘new’ actors emerge for example, the Pentecostalism, ‘miracle’ cures?
14) How has the institutionalization and regulation impacted on traditional medicine and its practitioners?
Keywords: Traditional medicine, integration, cultural familiarity, spirituality, holistic
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.