Integration for coexistence? Implementation of intercultural health care policy in Ghana from the perspective of service users and providers

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Journal article

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Journal of Integrative Medicine

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Science Press


intercultural health care policy, interview, perspectives, integrative medicine, Ghana


In spite of the World Health Organization's recommendations over the past decades, Ghana features pluralistic rather than truly integrated medical system. Policies about the integration of complementary medicine into the national health care delivery system need to account for individual-level involvement and cultural acceptability of care rendered by health care providers. Studies in Ghana, however, have glossed over the standpoint of the persons of the illness episode about the intercultural health care policy framework. This paper explores the health care users, and providers’ experiences and attitudes towards the implementation of intercultural health care policy in Ghana.

In-depth interviews, augmented with informal conversations, were conducted with 16 health service users, 7 traditional healers and 6 health professionals in the Sekyere South District and Kumasi Metropolis in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. Data were thematically analysed and presented based on the a posteriori inductive reduction approach.

Findings reveal a widespread positive attitude to, and support for integrative medical care in Ghana. However, inter-provider communication in a form of cross-referrals and collaborative mechanisms between healers and health professionals seldom occurs and remains unofficially sanctioned. Traditional healers and health care professionals are skeptical about intercultural health care policy mainly due to inadequate political commitment for provider education. The medical practitioners have limited opportunity to undergo training for integrative medical practice. We also find a serious mistrust between the practitioners due to the “diversity of healing approaches and techniques.” Weak institutional support, lack of training to meet standards of practice, poor registration and regulatory measures as well as negative perception of the integrative medical policy inhibit its implementation in Ghana.

In order to advance any useful intercultural health care policy in Ghana, the government's total commitment in informed training and provider education, enforcement of regulatory instrument and improved community engagement is needed. Evidence-based incorporation of traditional medical therapies into clinical practice will provide safer, faster and more effective health care for the underserved and resource-poor, particularly in the rural areas.



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Funding Information

We are grateful to the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (Grant number. SGRT.46/T12), the Institute for Research in Africa (IFRANigeria) and the French Embassy in Ghana for providing financial support for the study (these scholarships were offered to the first author). {SGRT.46/T12}

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Copyright © 2017, Journal of Integrative Medicine Editorial Office. Access to external full text or publisher's version may require subscription.

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Recommended Citation

Gyasi, R. M., Poku, A. A., Boateng, S., Amoah, P. A., Mumin, A. A., Obodai, J., & Agyemang-Duah, W. (2017). Integration for coexistence? Implementation of intercultural health care policy in Ghana from the perspective of service users and providers. Journal of Integrative Medicine, 15(1), 44-55. doi: 10.1016/S2095-4964(17)60312-1