The Lancet recently reported that South Africa has established the Traditional Health Practitioners Act which provides registration and training of traditional practitioners and serves to protect the interest of those who use the services. While traditional medicine is still unregulated, this is a step in the right direction toward building a bridge between allopathic medicine and traditional healing.
According to this article, in South Africa, patients often seek care from both systems assigning the task of diagnosing and treating the pathology to the doctor while relying on the traditional healers to establish what is wrong with the mind-body connection.
In fact, collaboration between the two systems could potentially lead to better outcomes than either one alone. One example is the use of traditional practitioners as supervisors for TB treatment programs. In one study, conducted in South Africa, over 3000 patients were registered and assigned to either DOT (Directly Observed Treatment) program supervisors or traditional practitioners and there was no difference in results – indicating a potential role for traditional healers in ambulatory DOT programs.
Especially in developing countries, where access to physicians and providers of allopathic medicine may be geographically or financially beyond reach, traditional healers are more frequently sought and more often trusted. It is exactly for this reason that steps to standardize the training, licensing and therapies of this parallel system would go a long way towards improving the quality of care and health outcomes in developing countries.