The challenge for the health worker or educator is not to change peoples behaviour. It is to help people understand, respect and build upon what is healthy in their own culture. Every area has unique traditions and customs that protect health. Beneficial customs should be encouraged. Here are some examples:
In several parts of the world, people use bees honey to treat burns.
The concentrated sugar in honey prevents bacterial growth. Recently, doctors have been experimenting with similar treatment of burns.
In West Africa, villagers eat yams during most of the year. But during the rainy harvest season, eating yams is taboo. Scientists have found that this custom makes medical sense. Yams contain small amounts of a poison (thiocyanate) that helps control sickle cell anemia. This kind of anemia causes many problems and sometimes death. But it also helps protect people against malaria, So the tradition of eating yams only when malaria is less common (the dry season), helps protect people against both sickle cell anemia and malaria.
In Mexico, long before penicillin had been discovered, villagers were treating women with childbed fever by giving them a tea brewed from the underground fungus gardens of leaf-cutting ants.
It is likely that this fungus is related to penicillin.
Source: Helping Health Workers Learn by David
Werner and Bill Bower, published by the Hesperian Foundation. Copyright 1982,
the Hesperian Foundation.
The Hesperian Foundation, P.O. Box 1692, Palo Alto CA 94302 U.S.A.
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