Integrating traditional medical practice with primary healthcare system in Eritrea

GebreMichael Kibreab Habtom 1
  • 1 Department of Public Administration, College of Business and Economics, University of Asmara, Asmara, Eritrea
GebreMichael Kibreab Habtom


Background: The purpose of this paper was to assess the perceptions and attitudes of modern medical practitioners (MMPs) and traditional medical practitioners (TMPs) about traditional medical practice and to analyze the utilization of traditional medicine in Eritrea.

Methods: The data for this study were collected in a 10-month period from January to October 2004. A cross-sectional study was conducted in three sub-zones of Eritrea: Dekemhare, Ghinda, and Maekel. A total of 500 (250 each) MMPs and TMPs, and 1657 households were included in the study. Data were collected both by questionnaire and an interview (with key informants).

Results: Our study reveals that there is a significant difference in perception and attitude between MMPs and TMPs about traditional medical practice in Eritrea. Their differences lie not only in their way of thinking but also in their perceptions of man and health. Our study further shows that in most rural communities in Eritrea, the use of traditional medicine and self-care is extensive. This is the case even in the presence of the supposedly free/subsidized health care available in government health centers.

Conclusions: Higher confidence in traditional medicine for the treatment of serious illnesses, irrespective of availability of western medical service in many parts of Eritrea, indicates the need for selective integration of traditional medical practice with the primary healthcare system of the country.

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The Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine focuses on evidence concerning the efficacy and safety of complementary and alternative medical (CAM) whole systems, practices, interventions and natural health products, including herbal medicines.