Developing a training package to improve herbal eye care amongst traditional medical practitioners in Offinso District, Ghana

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Traditional Medical Practitioners (TMP5) have considerable more eye care interactions with rural population than existing biomedical health personnel. There is no doubt that over the years, a good number of TMPs have perfected the art of symptomatic treatment and the use of herbal extracts but there is no documentation to this effect. Percentage blind in the Offinso district is 1.4%. Upgrading the knowledge and skills of TMPs with the developed training package, may improve on herbal eye care and reduce or curb blindness from preventable and avoidable causes. A descriptive cross sectional study was conducted in 16 of the 161 communities in the Offinso district. By simple random sampling, 16 communities were picked among 55 communities in the district. All 55 communities were accessible within distances that ranged between 1-5km.The 16 communities were put into 4 clusters with 4 communities within each cluster. Focus group discussions were conducted within the four clusters among TMPS who were chosen by purposive sampling. Individual TMPs were then interviewed in their home so that the environment within which they worked would be tested. The study revealed the following findings: The profession was male dominated with 82% males, 18% females and a mean age of 60.22 years. Even though education is important to the advancement of the profession, only 21% were educated beyond primary level. Knowledge was passed down by parents and fetish priest. All had knowledge about cataract, but 63% TMPs knew and claimed treating others such as red eye, Ophthalmic Neonatorum, corneal ulcer etc as well. “Kooko” (piles or hemorrhoids) was the known cause of most eye problems especially Cataract, the most common eye condition. Criteria used to assess vision before and after medication were mostly symptomatic On personal hygiene practices, only 2% TMPs made clients wash their faces with water. 6% TMPs washed hands with soap before applying herbal medication on clients’ eyes. Extracts were instilled directly into clients’ eye; charges for services could be in cash, kind or both. The usual charges of 10-20 thousand cedis (1-2 US Dollars) were very common: medication did not usually attract any charges. Eighty nine percent TMPs were ready to accept practices from the hospital. Herbal eye care will continue as long as primary eye care continues to be unavailable to the majority of the people living in rural Offinso district. Therefore training TMPs to improve on eye care may reduce or curb blindness from avoidable causes. In view of this biomedical eye care personnel shall use the developed training package which contains a revised form of Snellen E chart, to train the TMPs. This may help to improve on herbal eye care within the district.
A dissertation submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, KNUST in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the Degree of Master of Science in Health Education and Promotion, 2005