Utilization of traditional medicine as a health care option: a case for Kiruhura District
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INTRODUCTION: Traditional medicine has existed in Uganda for a very long time before the advent for modern forms of treatment and almost all communities entirely depended on it for their health care needs. Traditional practitioners are found in most societies in Uganda and these are more pronounced in rural settings like that of kiruhura district. The increasing use of traditional medicine in Uganda and particulary in kiruhura district is based on the various advantages occurring to traditional medicine including but not limited to being cheaper and easier to access than biomedical health care and being culturally accepted among others. However, the use of traditional medicine has not been given the attention it deserves in terms of regulation and guidance and this is likely to result into health problems to the population. The challenges such as poor herbal preparation, dosage, storage and administration have continued to thretean the practice and are likely to result into negative health impacts if no mitigation measures are adequately put in place. OBJECTIVES: The study was undertaken to assess the use of traditional medicine as a health care option and generate information that would be used in formulating guidelines on use and regulation of traditional medicine in kiruhura district. Specifically the study was intended to establish the level of use of traditional medicine by the community in kiruhura district, factors responsible for utilization of traditional medicine, and the problems associated with use of traditional medicine in kiruhura district. METHODS: A Descriptive cross-sectional study employing both qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection was used. The formula used to calculate the sample size was the kish and leslie formula of ramndom sampling for single proportion. Thus a total number of 384 respondents was interviewed. The data collection tools included Focus Groupd discussion guides, key informant interview guide and interviewer administered questionnaires. Data was entered using Epi-Info Version 3.2.2 (2005) software and exported to stata 8.2 software for analysis and it was done in stages involving univariate, bivariate and multivariate analysis. RESULTS: The study revealed that about 62% of the population in kiruhura use traditional medicine compared to modern or biomedical treatment. The factors that significantly influenced the utilization of traditional medicine were, strong traditional beliefs (47%), lack of drugs in health centres (29%), high cost of treatment in health centres (12%), long distances to health centres (9%) and others (3%). The problems associated with use of traditional medicine were found to be lack of herbal preparation standards, false application, unspecified dosage and wrong administration among others. CONCLUSION: The study revealed that the population Kiruhura district use traditional medicine more than modern or biomedical treatment. The main factor that significantly influenced the use of traditional medicine was the inherently belief in traditional medicine where certain disease conditions are traditionally branded to be only cured by traditional medicine. Other factors were lack of adequate drugs in health facilities, high cost treatment in health facilities, long distances to health facilities and social demographic characteristics like the sex of respondent and occupation were the peasants use traditional medicine more than the rest. Women were more attached to the use of TM because of their house hold role of caring for the family’s health including their pregnancies. Notwithstanding the high level use of traditional medicine in Kiruhura district, a number of challenges were found to be associated with this use. These included lack of herbal preparation standards, false application were some drugs were falsely said to be curing everything, unspecified dosage and wrong administration were in some cases the traditional medicine was injected directly and posed health risks. RECOMMENDATIONS: 1. The ministry of health and the district health team shouls guide the population in kiruhura on proper use of traditional medicine giving particular attention to issues of efficacy and safety. 2. Ministry of health and other stakeholders should undertake an inventory of the most useful traditional medicines/herbs and create a catalogue for easy research and guidance to the users. 3. The Local gorvenment of kiruhura district with the assistance of ministry of health should formulate a traditional medicine by-law to regulate the practice. 4. The ministry of health should establish more health centres nearer to the people and equip them with drugs to reduce dependence on traditional medicine. 5. The draft policy on traditional medicine should be quickly formaulated to guide the traditional medicine practice paying specific attention to issues of efficacy, quality and mode of herbal preparation. 6. The ministry of health, Disrict health department and other stakeholders should sensitize the population in kiruhura to change their beliefs in traditional medicine which has affected their modern health care seeking behaviour. (some individuals still think that certain herbal can cure everything and they end up not visiting any doctor). 7. Traditional medicine should be included in school curriculum beginning from primary level to enable children grow up with an informed mind. 8. The ministry of Health should integrate a component on traditional medicine in the national health strategic plan. 9. There should be a deliberate effort to women health related issues in district since they are most affected and can influence behaviour change at household level.