Culture and biomedical care in Africa: the influence of culture on biomedical care in a traditional African society, Nigeria, West Africa

Niger J Med. Jul-Sep 2012;21(3):331-3.

Abstract

Background: Biomedical Care in Africa and the influence of culture on the health-seeking behaviour of Africans can not be underestimated; many African cultures have different understanding of the causes of disease which more often affect our public health system, policy, planning and implementations. The traditional African healer unlike a doctor trained in western biomedicine, looks for the cause of the patient's ailments as misfortune in relationship between the patient and the social, natural and spiritual environments. The complexity of African society with different cultural and religious practices also reflects on the people's attitude and understanding of their health matters. This paper is an overview of the cultural influence on biomedical care in a traditional African society, Nigeria, West Africa.

Methods: A research on the patients' health seeking behaviour and Primary Health Care service organization in 10 health centres in the five eastern states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was carried out using a multistage cross-sectional study. A semi-structured questionnaire was administered to the health care providers and patients while an in-depth semi- structured interview was also conducted.

Result: We observed there is underutilization of health care services at the primary level because most people do not accept the model of health care system provided for them. Most people believe diseases are caused by supernatural beings, the handiwork of neighbours or vengeance from an offended god as a result of transgressions committed in the past by an individual or parents. This group of people therefore prefers seeking traditional medicine to seeking orthodox medicine and often ends up in the hands of witch doctors who claim to have cure to almost all the diseases.

Conclusion: Biomedical care in Africa is influence by culture because of different understanding of what ailment is and also due to limited knowledge of health matters, poverty and ignorance. There is a need therefore to focus on health out-reach programme, communication and enlightment campaign in Africa especially in the rural areas that are more vulnerable and are burdened with many of these diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Culture*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Medicine, African Traditional
  • Nigeria
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Primary Health Care
  • Surveys and Questionnaires