Traditional healing and primary care: A socio-cultural study in a rural Tehuledere community, North-Eastern Ethiopia



Abstract Introduction: This study explored the traditional healing practices among Tehuledere communities of North-eastern Ethiopia with an objective to construct a rural primary health care model. Methodology: A qualitative ethnographic method was used for this study. Using Kleinman’s Cultural Systems Model, we conducted participatory observation (5 months over a one year period) supplemented by ten focus group discussions (n=96) and 20 in-depth interviews with purposefully selected knowledgeable community members. The focus group and in-depth interviews included questions about the traditional healing as a health care option, relationship and referral patterns between traditional healers and biomedical care and factor influencing the decision to seek health care options. In addition, the PI observed 7 traditional healers (2 female and 5 male) and 3 health extension workers while in action and interviewed informally. The notes were expanded, read and re-read to develop themes and interpretation and narration of findings followed. Findings: It was found that in Tehuledere pluralistic health-care resources were used either independently or concurrently with biomedicine. Three categories of traditional healers in the study communities were identified: Kitel Betash or Herbalists, ‘Awalaj’ or traditional birth attendant and ‘Wogesha’ or local bonesetter. Major reasons for the use of traditional healers included: perceived etiology of illnesses; the availability and acceptability of health-care services; the relationship between the health-care practitioners and the patients; socio-economic factors (cost of health care service); and the influence of social network and/or social relationships. It was also found that traditional healers have interest to collaborate with bio-medical health-care practitioners. Conclusion: Members of the study community considers traditional healing by Kitel Betash, Awalaj and Wogesha as a health care option in a multiple health-care resources. In view of this a successful rural primary health care strategy would have integrated these into the strategies of rural health care. [Ethiop. J. Health Dev. 2015;29(2):127-136]



How to Cite

Kahissay, M. H., & Fenta, T. G. (2016). Traditional healing and primary care: A socio-cultural study in a rural Tehuledere community, North-Eastern Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Journal of Health Development, 29(2), PDF. Retrieved from