“My health is part of my way of life”: Local understanding of health and health problem in Ethiopia (Mirgissa Kaba)
Health is a holistic concept at community level. It is an integral component of social, cultural, economic and political routines of the community. Health is not about diseases or illnesses but it is about complete wellbeing which aligns well with WHO’s early definition of health. As such, health, health problems and solutions to such problems follows comprehensive pathways. Unlike the ‘modern’ health care interventions, which is reductionist differentiating the disease causing agent from the whole person, local communities recognize health and lack of it not only within the person but also within the local context within which the person lives. Based on such conception of health and health problems, communities have developed the ways to deal with health problems.
Although evidences are scanty, few specific evidences attest that, for centuries, majority of Ethiopians heavily relied on indigenous healthcare knowledge and skills in treating various health problems. Despite the expansion of modern health services, even to date, majority of people maintained preferences for indigenous medicine for many of the health problems. Multiple healing resources are available and operate in tandem offering alternatives for the public. Thus, healers be it herbal or spiritual play important role at community level. Various studies show that people are far comfortable with healers with whom they share common cultural context but who better understands them and their problem from a broader perspective. Despite such realities, the government did not pay as much formal attention to indigenous wisdom to date. Recently, government has developed a road map for research and development to improve the contribution of indigenous medicine in Ethiopia.
Building more on local knowledge and improving the interface between modern healing practices local wisdom may improve to prevent, heal and mange health problems that are getting complicated in connection to urbanization, industrialization and climate change in the 21st century