Knowledge-based integration of Zimbabwean traditional medicines into the National Healthcare System: A case study of prostate cancer
Chawatama, Brighton Itayi
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This study sought to identify the bottlenecks in the promotion of Zimbabwean Traditional Medicines (ZTMs) towards improving the national healthcare delivery system. The indigenous medicines lost value and recognition to the Conventional Western Medicines introduced by the British colonialist since 1871 and is still dominating the national healthcare delivery system. There are growing challenges to ensure accessibility of affordable drugs especially for primary healthcare. The World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations (UN) is in support of re-engaging indigenous medical interventions to achieve the Millennium development goals. Indigenous Traditional Medicine Knowledge-Based Systems (ITMKS) form the basis of the main source of health care for about 80% of the population in the developing countries. The implementation of the Zimbabwe Traditional Medicines Policy (ZTMP) has been at a stand-still since inception in 2007. The research used mixed methods involving qualitative and quantitative approaches. Data was collected through desk and field research. Questionnaires and focus group discussions were used to record perceptions and attitudes of key informants. The stakeholders included Traditional Health Practitioners (THPs), Medical Doctors, Pharmacists, Medical Research Council of Zimbabwe (MRCZ) staff, Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ), Traditional Medical Practitioner’s Council (TMPC), Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (Zinatha), Ministry of Health and Childcare, WHO, Higher Education Institutions (UZ School of Pharmacy staff and students), Christian Groups, NGOs and Prostate Cancer Patients in Harare CBD. The stakeholders sampling framework was obtained from the list of registered practitioners. The stakeholder mapping involved selection of 5 key informants from each focus group obtained through random selection. The Snowball sampling technique was used to follow the closest 5 key informants in each focus group. The key findings established that 80% of respondents agreed to the integration of ZTM. The major bottlenecks were lack of modern dosage forms and standardization to determine quality, safety and efficacy of the ZTM. The study suggests that in order to fast track the integration process, a bottom up implementation strategy providing ZTM advocacy, capacity building in the institutionalization and training of ZTMPs, pharmacists and CMP need to be engaged for a favorable and quick buy-in. The study also recommends further analysis of the Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) areas of specialization in pharmaceutical practice in order to improve treatment outcomes.