PICTURED: Dr Olutobi Sanuade (UCL Institute of Advanced Studies)
STROKE SUFFERERS in Ghana are more likely to discuss their health history with a faith and herbal healer than a medical professional, according to a new study led by University College London (UCL) and funded by the Wellcome Trust.
The study has been published in Wellcome Open Research, an open access and peer reviewed journal established by the Wellcome Trust in London (UK), which is one of the world’s largest biomedical charities.
A total of 255 stroke sufferers across a wide age group (18 to 75 years old) participated in the study highlighting varied cultural and social perceptions regarding stroke. Key findings include:
· Participants believe that strokes can be cured through early detection and treatment, use of herbal medicines, faith and herbal healers and availability of financial resources
· Participants believe that a stroke is worse and more debilitating if it affects the left side of the body
· Some participants distinguished between natural and spiritual strokes. They mentioned naturally caused strokes are caused by hypertension while spiritual strokes are caused by witchcraft activity, sorcery and curses.
· Typically, participants considered that naturally caused strokes can be treated through physical activity and good diets, and spiritually caused strokes treated through faith or traditional healing
· The study highlights that participants are much more likely to discuss their condition and health history with faith and herbal healers rather than medical professionals and this is likely leading to gaps in stroke treatment and rehabilitation
The research was conducted through focus groups, between October and November 2017, with local community members in five communities (Ga Mashie, Tafo, Gyegyeano, Chanshegu and Agorve) located in five regions in Ghana. The focus groups were conducted in Ga, Twi, Fante, Ewe and Dagbani, and were transcribed into English.
Dr Olutobi Sanuade (UCL Institute of Advanced Studies), who completed his PhD in Population Studies from the Regional Institute for Population Studies (RIPS), University of Ghana, said: “The results of the study highlight the need for medical professionals and herbal / faith healers to work together to ensure that patients receive the best available stroke treatment and rehabilitation.”
Dr Sanuade will be hosting a public engagement event at the University of Ghana in February 2019, bringing together medics, health professionals (occupational therapists and carers), stroke patients, faith healers and herbal healers, along with academics and policy makers to identify ways in which to work together more collaboratively.
The goal is to develop a public education programme similar to that of UK ‘Act FAST’ stroke awareness campaign to tackle some of the misconceptions about stroke and improve public health outcomes.
Commenting on the findings and next steps, Dr Sanuade said: “It is important that stroke clinicians have a good understanding of the social and cultural landscapes of the communities in which they work so that they can, together with local communities, come up with context-specific interventions for stroke management and control.
“This study also highlights the need to promote education on the multifaceted impact of stroke in Ghanaian communities. Finally, in addition to paying attention to the cultural meanings of stroke, other factors such as access to care, cost of health care, economic realities and constraints of poverty should be given much consideration in stroke prevention and control.
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