Working with the community
Traditional healers play a key advice role in health systems around the world and are often admired and trusted members of their communities. At Orbis we work with traditional healers to help educate communities around eye health.
In Zambia there is a Traditional Health Practitioners Association which has 40,000 members. Steven is one of them, he is 65 years old and has practised as a healer for 50 years. His father and grandfather were healers. We had the opportunity to speak to him about his work and what inspires him to help people.
How did you get involved in formal eye health?
The Ministry of Health encouraged it. We used to give medicine to clients to help recover eyesight, but some medicines were not good and some eye conditions infectious.
What are the most common misconceptions you experience?
We were treated as witch doctors but we’ve become more ‘user friendly’.
What’s the main thing you treat?
Common issues are swollen legs, diabetes, migraine, skin rash, anaemia, vomiting, and fits. There are certain things where I always make a referral to the hospital. For example tonsillitis and eye problems, as there is better equipment there.
How do you see traditional and modern medicine working together?
Traditional healers play a big role, they see a lot of people in the community – more than hospitals see. We are happy to work with the hospital. Some things can be treated better in hospitals and others better in the community, for example in hospitals, things that require equipment. However things like mental health and fits are treated less well in a hospital environment and much better in the community.