The role of traditional healers in oral health care in the Bui Division, North West Province, Cameroon
Agbor, Michael A.
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The majority of Cameroonians depend on traditional medicines for their health care needs and about seven per cent of the average household health budget is spent on traditional medicines irrespective of their incomes. The aim of this study was (i) to assess the role of traditional healers (THs) in providing oral care services in Cameroon; (ii) to determine their cost of treatment and to investigate reasons why people visit THs. The present study was cross sectional and consisted of a sample of 21 THs and 52 clients with a history of dental problems. It utilized semi structured questionnaires and photographs to collect data. The mean age of THs was 46.0 years (range 20-77 years). Thirty per cent of THs were above 40 years and the majority males. Nearly a quarter of the THs practiced as herbalists and the remainder practiced both divination and herbalism. More than two thirds of Cameroonians, who patronize THs for their oral health needs, fall within the 20-40 year age group. THs in this region are experienced and enjoy good relationships with hospitals and other THs. However, collaboration between the oral health work force and THs is very poor as only 6% of all patients seen by THs are referred to the dentist. Socio-cultural and economic factors affect the oral health care seeking behavior of patients in this area and only 6.5% of patients visit dental clinics. Reasons for not attending dental clinics included cost, poor accessibility, superstition and fear.