The Department of Health in the Western Cape signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Western Cape Inyangi Forum recently. This represents a major milestone in relations between these two sectors in health care provision. In South Africa there is the Traditional Health Practitioners Interim Council Act of 2007 that recognized for the first time the involvement of traditional health practitioners (THPs) in health care. The signing of the MOU and the development of the Act came after many decades of a conflictual relationship between the two sectors.
Health care, medicine and public health are rooted in the concept of eradicating human suffering related to illness and disease. Despite many common features, each area offers unique perspectives into specific philosophies and approaches to curing disease, restoring and ensuring health, and promoting wellness. In Africa, traditional medicine and other approaches including integrative, complementary and alternative methods intersect with public health in a number of ways. Optimal health and wellbeing depend on both having access to clinical services as well as individuals’ behaviours and attitudes.
South Africa has a wealthy supply of plants. With about 25 000 known species found here, this country is third only to Brazil and Indonesia as far as biodiversity is concerned. Most people are unaware that a significant percentage of the active ingredients used in modern medicine originated from plants. The goal of my research team (myself and my postgraduate students) is to scientifically explore and test South Africa’s indigenous plants and see which of them could possibly provide chemical compounds that could be of benefit to all mankind.
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