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what role do traditional healers have in a modern healthcare system?

January 3rd, 2019 | 3 min read

By Matthew Loftus

On the fence just down the street from the hospital where I work in Kenya, there is a sign for a “Dr. Musa” promising treatments for everything from “business” to “male strength”. Sometimes as I walk through town, I will see that someone has set up a tent or is driving a van through with advertisements for herbal medicines that will treat diabetes, high blood pressure, and many other ailments. Patients often come in saying that they had tried herbal medications for their wounds or other symptoms before coming to our hospital, and in one very sad case I was not able to resuscitate a newborn whose grandmother had attempted to feed it a mixture of herbs — only for these herbs to go into the child’s airway, not his esophagus.

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Matthew Loftus

Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at