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Swarthmore College

Publication Date

Fall 2006

Program Name

Kenya: Development, Health, and Society


Currently, there is a problem of access to biomedical health services to large portions of Nairobi’s population. Traditional herbal medicine has long been practiced in Kenya, and though studies have shown that traditional medicine has been effective against certain acute and chronic illnesses, it has been marginalized in the health service sector. By integrating traditional medicine into mainstream healthcare, a larger proportion of the Kenyan population will be able achieve access to adequate health services. However, there has not been enough discussion about traditional medicine from a holistic point of view. Without adequate discussion, traditional medicine will remain in the shadows, thereby eliminating a possible method of improving the lives of Kenyans. This study aims to initiate that discussion by presenting traditional medicine through the lenses of traditional practitioners, biomedical physicians, hospital administrators, patients, health insurance companies, government officials, and Nairobi residents. The results of this study indicate that though traditional medicine and conventional biomedicine have different characteristics, these differences are complementary rather than competitive. There are many advantages to integration, including better health care delivery, entry into a lucrative global market for traditional medicine, and improved knowledge about medicine through collaboration with biomedicine. Current policy efforts to recognize, regulate, and integrate traditional medicine have been hurt by internal opposition, bureaucratic inefficiency, and external economic pressures. Though progress has been made, better communication and more candid discussion is necessary to truly maximize the potential of traditional medicine.


Alternative and Complementary Medicine


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