What Role Do Traditional Healers Play in the Pathway to Care of Psychiatric Patients in Malawi, and How Does this Compare to Other African Countries?

Author(s): Andrew Drury

Cultural beliefs about witchcraft and ancestral spirits are widespread in Malawi and other parts of Africa. These beliefs impact on health-seeking behaviours of individuals. Traditional healers are a popular and accessible component of the health-seeking pathway, but little is known about their role in Malawi. An evaluative literature review was completed by means of multiple electronic database search. Traditional healers popularity is likely to be associated with a number of factors, including; availability, cost, satisfaction, shared values, and explanatory models of disease. Fostering collaborations with Traditional healers is crucial in the effective planning of psychiatric services, and the future training of Malawian psychiatrists would benefit from incorporating time spent with traditional healers to share knowledge, skills and expertise.

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