Can traditional and western medicine co-exist?

By Madeleine Finney-Brown

I was recently given the opportunity to meet with a traditional healer in the village of Mukono. As a medical student, I was interested to hear about how he diagnosed his patients, and what treatments he used. I was also keen to find out about his opinion of western medicine, particularly (as relevant to the work of CTPH) regarding contraception.

the Traditional Healer

Upon arriving at the traditional healer’s home, we were warmly welcomed and shown to a building where he sees his patients and keeps his medicines. I was surprised to learn that many of his examination and diagnostic techniques were not so different from my own! giving an immunisation to an infant in the Batwa village

Although I didn’t recognize most of the plants he showed us, I wondered if many were infact ingredients in the medicines we use, as I know many western medications contain natural products. My concern with the traditional healer’s herbs is not their effectiveness, but their potency (amount required to produce an effect of given intensity), as quantities are much more difficult to regulate.


When asked about contraceptive, the old man replied that he had two traditional methods, but that these days he more commonly recommended conventional contraceptives- referring women to his wife (who is, in-fact, a CTPH CCHV), and speaking with the men himself.

MPH students Stella and Cait with Stephen in the lab

All-in-all, it was a very interesting visit, and I certainly feel there is a role for traditional healers. I feel that traditional and western medicine should be collaborative, and I certainly will carry this idea forth into my future practice as a doctor.





Joseph asking the survey questions to a woman from Kishanda in Bujengwe parish


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