Traditional and complementary medicine use among Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone: A qualitative exploratory study of the perspectives of healthcare workers providing care to Ebola survivors
James, Peter Bai
Bah, Abdulai Jawo
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James, P. B., Wardle, J., Steel, A., Adams, J., Bah, A. J. & Sevalie, S. (2021) Traditional and complementary medicine use among Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone: A qualitative exploratory study of the perspectives of healthcare workers providing care to Ebola survivors. BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, 20:137.
Background: Considerable number of patients, including Ebola survivors, in Sierra Leone, are using traditional and complementary medicine (T&CM). Healthcare providers’ (HCPs) views about T&CM is crucial in addressing the increased need for T&CM among patients. However, healthcare providers’ views about T&CM in Sierra Leone is unknown. Our study explores healthcare providers’ knowledge of and perception towards T&CM and how that influence their personal and professional T&CM use, communication with Ebola survivors about T&CM as well as its integration into the healthcare system in Sierra Leone. Methods: We employed a qualitative exploratory study design using semi-structured interviews to collect data from 15 conveniently sampled HCPs in all four geographical regions of Sierra Leone. We analysed our data using thematic network analysis framework. Results: Healthcare providers perceived their knowledge about T&CM to be low and considered T&CM to be less effective and less safe than conventional medicine as well as not evidence-based. HCPs perception of T&CM as non-scientific and their lack of knowledge of T&CM were the key barriers to HCPs’ self-use and recommendation as well as their lack of detailed discussion about T&CM with Ebola survivors. HCPs are open to T&CM integration into mainstream healthcare in Sierra Leone although at their terms. However, they believe that T&CM integration could be enhanced by effective professional regulation of T&CM practice, and by improving T&CM evidenced-based knowledge through education, training and research. Conclusion: Changing HCPs’ negative perception of and increasing their knowledge about T&CM is critical to promoting effective communication with Ebola survivors regarding T&CM and its integration into the healthcare system in Sierra Leone. Strategies such as educational interventions for HCPs, conducting rigorous T&CM research, proper education and training of T&CM practitioners and effective professional regulation of T&CM practice could help in that direction.