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Turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to traditional and complementary medicine practice does not make it go away: a qualitative study exploring perceptions and attitudes of stakeholders towards the integration of traditional and complementary medicine into medical school curriculum in Uganda



Turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to traditional and complementary medicine practice does not make it go away: a qualitative study exploring perceptions and attitudes of stakeholders towards the integration of traditional and complementary medicine into medical school curriculum in Uganda



Bmc Medical Education 18(1): 310



A substantial proportion of healthcare professionals have inadequate understanding of traditional and complementary medicine and often consider their use inappropriate. We conducted a qualitative study to understand the perceptions and attitudes of medical students, medical school faculty and traditional and complementary medicine practitioners. In-depth interviews and focus group discussions were used to collect data. Thematic approach was used in data analysis to identify emerging themes and sub themes. Data analysis was supported with use of Atlas.ti v6.1.1. The majority of participants commended the inclusion of traditional and complementary medicine principles into medical school curricula. The main reasons advanced were that: patients are already using these medicines and doctors need to understand them; doctors would be more accommodating to use and not rebuke patients, thereby minimizing delays in care due to pursuit of alternative therapies; promote patient safety; foster therapeutic alliance and adherence to therapy; uphold patients' right to self-determination; lead to discovery of new drugs from traditional medicines; and set ground for regulation of practices and quality control. However, participants anticipated operational and ethical challenges that include inadequate number of faculty to teach the subject, congested curricula, increased costs in research and development to produce evidence-base data, obstruction by pharmaceutical companies, inaccessibility to and depletion of medicinal plants, and potential conflicts due to diversity in culture and values. A substantial minority of participants thought traditional medicine need not be taught in medical schools because there is lack of scientific evidence on efficacy, safety, and side effects profiles. These shortfalls could make the determination of benefits (beneficence) and harm (maleficence) difficult, as well as compromise the ability of physicians to adequately disclose benefits and harms to patients and family, thereby undermining the process of informed consent and patient autonomy. Training medical students in principles of traditional and complementary medicine is considered reasonable, feasible, and acceptable; and could lead to improvement in health outcomes. There are anticipated challenges to implementing a hybrid medical school curricula, but these are surmountable and need not delay introducing traditional and complementary medicine principles into medical school curricula in Uganda.

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Accession: 066019099

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PMID: 30563506

DOI: 10.1186/s12909-018-1419-4


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