Traditional Beliefs Play Major Role in Ghanaian Health Care

Natural occurrences are said to have supernatural implications

Morning plant as nutritional supplement
Morning plant as nutritional supplement



Joana Mantey

When an African gets sick, a lack of trained doctors or medicine leads many to traditional practices, especially spiritual cures, some using religion, and appeals to ancestors.

Western medicine attributes disease in part to germs according to Professor Samuel Danquah a psychologist at the University of Ghana.  By contrast, he says both good and bad health can have some spiritual implications for the African. 

“When x-rays and laboratory tests are not conclusive, the African is left in a state of doubt, and solutions are sought from outside sources. If orthodox medicine doesn’t work and the African uses his belief system, that he has sinned against God, in which case he will use a priest," explains Professor Danquah.

"If he has sinned against the lesser gods, he consults spirits and shrines.  If he believes the cause to be witchcraft, he also sees the shrine."

The moringa plant is sometimes used as a nutritional supplement
The moringa plant is sometimes used as a nutritional supplement

Traditional priests may either prescribe herbal treatments or certain rituals.

“Even to go and pluck the leaves, the priest has to say many incantations, without which the herbs may not work.  And before they do that, they ask [the sick person] to slaughter a goat [as a sacrifice] before the leaves can work,” says Professor Danquah. 

He says people will pay for the priest to invoke the spirit behind the treatment.  This reinforces the African belief in the supernatural and makes the treatment more acceptable.

For people who go to churches with health problems, Danquah says their needs are met based upon their faith.

Apart from medical intervention, some people’s beliefs are so strong that they benefit from it according to Danquah.

Danquah says the church works on such patients by drawing upon their faith. 

“When you go there they will never let you go.  They have answers for all your problems.  They lay hands on you and you can see a person falling and Ghanaians are thrilled,” he says.

Africans are not alone in using alternative treatments for illness. 

In the West, some psychologists say spiritual and religious support can help a patient recover from certain illnesses.  Others say talk therapy helps patients cope with mental illnesses that may not have a physical basis, including depression.  

Danquah says in Ghana, the stigma attached to mental illness prevents many people from going to psychologists. 

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs