Knowledge and perceptions of medical students about African traditional medicines
The World Health Organisation and the National Department of Health (NDoH) in South Africa (SA) accept and recognise the use of African traditional medicines (ATM) as part of health care. Therefore, health care professionals should be cognisant of ATM, as it may have implications for the conventional management of diseases. Medical doctors are at the helm of public health care, and are expected to be knowledgeable about all medicines and other health practices including traditional medicine. This study aimed to investigate the perceptions and knowledge of medical students about ATMs within the health care system. A descriptive quantitative study was conducted on 167 third year medical students at the University of Limpopo, South Africa, using a self-administered questionnaire. Ninety two percent of participants were aware of ATM use by the public and 60% knew someone who had used ATMs, while only 32% reported self-use. Participants perceived that ATMs are neither effective (41%) nor beneficial (36%) when combined with conventional medicines. The medical students identified plants (98%) and animals (78%) as sources of ATM and believed that common users were the superstitious (91%), rural dwellers (84%) and the poor (81%). Participants had not been taught about ATM (98%), but were familiar with the oral (97%), topical (81%) and inhalational (78%) routes of administration. Sources of information for participants included family/relatives (78%) and the media (70%). It is recommended that ATM be incorporated into the medical curriculum in order to bridge the identified gaps.
Keywords: African traditional medicine, medical students
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