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“I don’t know anything about their Culture”: The Disconnect between Allopathic and Traditional Maternity Care Providers in Rural Northern Ghana

E Hill
R Hess
R Aborigo
P Adongo
A Hodgson
C Engmann
CA Moyer


The provision of maternal and neonatal health care in rural northern Ghana is pluralistic, consisting of traditional and allopathic providers. Although  women often use these providers interchangeably, important differences exist. This study explored the differences in approaches to maternal and neonatal care provision by these two different types of providers. This  research was part of the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Study (SANDS),  conducted in northern Ghana in 2010. Trained field staff of the Navrongo Health Research Centre conducted in-depth interviews with 13 allopathic and 8 traditional providers. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using in vivo coding and discussion amongst the research team. Three overarching themes resulted: 1) many allopathic providers were isolated from the culture of the communities in which they practiced, while traditional providers were much more aware of the local cultural  beliefs and practices. 2) Allopathic and traditional healthcare providers have different frameworks for understanding health and disease, with  allopathic providers relying heavily on their biomedical knowledge, and traditional providers drawing on their knowledge of natural remedies. 3) All providers agreed that education directed at pregnant women, providers (both allopathic and traditional), and the community at large is needed to improve maternal and neonatal outcomes. Our findings suggest that, among other things, programmatic efforts need to be placed on the cultural education of allopathic providers. (Afr J Reprod Health 2014; 18[2]: 36-45).

Keywords: Allopathic medicine, traditional medicine, maternal health, delivery care, culture

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eISSN: 1118-4841