Traditional Chinese medicine to improve rural health in South Africa: A case study for Gauteng

Health SA. 2022 Sep 27;27:1871. doi: 10.4102/hsag.v27i0.1871. eCollection 2022.


Background: Rural health is a global crisis across different continents. Most of Africa is predominantly rural and is experiencing financial constraints. Medical support and supplies are a dire need in rural Africa. An alternative option to support the rural population is through traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Studies have highlighted the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of Chinese medicine in improving health.

Aim: This article aims to investigate how rural health can be improved through alternative medicine options, focusing primarily on TCM.

Setting: An identified TCM practice in Gauteng province was selected as the research setting.

Methods: This study adopted a qualitative case study design to explore 10 participants' views on TCM to improve rural health. The health belief model was used as a theoretical framework, and thematic analysis was used for this study.

Results: Findings revealed that most participants accepted TCM as an alternative medical health care option as it resonated with African herbal medicine. Participants agreed that TCM is cheaper and has no side effects.

Conclusion: There is a lack of appropriate medical service providers in most rural areas, and often, people depend on traditional medicines as a quick remedy. As TCM is cost-effective and has proven to treat numerous ailments successfully, it is recommended that it be further explored as a health care option available to rural populations.

Contribution: This was the first study on South African patients' views on TCM in the South African context.

Keywords: Africans; alternative medicine; rural health; traditional Chinese medicine.