Factors affecting utilization of traditional bonesetters in the Northern Region of Ghana

Afr J Emerg Med. 2021 Mar;11(1):105-110. doi: 10.1016/j.afjem.2020.09.002. Epub 2020 Sep 30.


Background: Traditional bonesetters (TBS) are still highly patronized by people with fractures in Africa. We sought to investigate factors affecting the utilization of TBS services in the Northern Region of Ghana.

Methods: A mixed-methods study that combined both qualitative and quantitative approaches was conducted among 64 TBS clients in the Northern Region of Ghana. Participants were purposively selected and should have utilized the services of TBSs at the time of the study. In addition, three focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted to complement the quantitative results. Quantitative analysis was performed by calculating means and proportions. For the qualitative data, content analysis was done manually based on emerging themes in line with the study objectives.

Results: Sixty-four (64) clients were recruited. Twenty-four (37.5%) were female. The modal age group was 19-39 years. The educational status of the clients was dominated by primary/junior secondary education (39.1%), but included the full spectrum from no formal education / illiterate (26.6%) to tertiary (12.5%). Cheaper fees (26.3%), cultural beliefs (17.9%), and quick service (15.9%) were the main reason of patronizing TBSs. Twenty-two (34.3%) would have preferred orthodox care and the reasons cited included availability of X-rays (27.3%) and pain management (25.3%). These themes were reiterated by FGDs with an additional 30 clients. Additional themes identified by the FGDs included a belief that TBSs address both physical and spiritual aspects of the injury and the major role that families (not the injured person alone) make in deciding on type of treatment. Clients were supportive of orthodox providers linking with TBSs for activities such as training to improve pain control.

Conclusion: TBSs have patronage from the full spectrum of society. The decision to opt for TBS treatment was influenced by cheaper fees, cultural belief, and quick service. TBS clients wanted greater linkages between TBSs and orthodox providers.

Keywords: Fracture; Health service utilization; Orthopaedics; Traditional bonesetters (TBS).