Traditional, complementary and alternative medicine in Botswana: patients’ attitudes, knowledge and use
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BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to determine use, knowledge and attitudes towards traditional, complementary and alternative medicine (TCAM) in Botswana among people who visit public health facilities. PRIMARY AIM: The primary aim of this study was to establish the attitude towards, knowledge of and use of TCAM among patients utilizing two public health care facilities in Botswana. METHODS: The study was descriptive and quantitative in design. Data were collected using structured questionnaires in two public sector hospitals. Data included demographics of participants, current or past TCAM use, perceptions of efficacy and safety of TCAM and knowledge sources on TCAM. RESULTS: The median age of participants was 38.5 years with the youngest participants being 18 years and oldest participant 78 years. Just more than half (55%) of the participants were female.The majority of participants were single (65.6%) and about a quarter (24.4%) of participants were married. Of the study population 16 (7%) participants had no formal education and 40% had a secondary school education. The prevalence of TCAM use in the 90 study participants was found to be 48.9% of which 16.7% were currently using TCAM and 32.2% had used TCAM in the past. However, this practice could not be correlated with any particular demographic variable. TCAM was most often used either to promote overall wellness or to treat a specific health condition. The TCAM modality that was mostly used was African traditional medicine and other herbals. The majority of TCAM users were satisfied with the effects of TCAM of whom 68.4% of participants found the products very helpful. Most of the respondents (79%) reported that they perceived the products to be very safe. However, the participants were split in their willingness to recommend TCAM to another person. In terms of knowledge, most participants would not use TCAM with other medicines. Yet the majority of participants also indicated that they have never discussed TCAM use with their health care professional. Most participants have been exposed to information on TCAM from family or friends (80.6%). CONCLUSION: The prevalence of TCAM use in Botswana is similar to findings in other parts of the world. These products were primarily used for overall wellness and to treat specific diseases, but this practice could not be attributed to any particular demographic profile. The majority of TCAM users were satisfied with the effects of TCAM. Findings support a need for greater integration of allopathic medicine and CAM, as well as improved communication between patients and caregivers regarding TCAM usage.