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Traditional health practitioner and the scientist: Bridging the gap in contemporary health research in Tanzania.
Tanzania Health Research Bulletin. 2007 May; 9(2):115-120.Traditional health practitioners (THPs) and their role in traditional medicine health care system are worldwide acknowledged. Trend in the use of Traditional medicine (TRM) and Alternative or Complementary medicine (CAM) is increasing due to epidemics like HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases like cancer. Despite the wide use of TRM, genuine concern from the public and scientists/biomedical heath practitioners (BHP) on efficacy, safety and quality of TRM has been raised. While appreciating and promoting the use of TRM, the World Health Organization (WHO), and WHO/Afro, in response to the registered challenges has worked modalities to be adopted by Member States as a way to addressing these concerns. Gradually, through the WHO strategy, TRM policy and legal framework has been adopted in most of the Member States in order to accommodate sustainable collaboration between THPs and the scientist/BHP. Research protocols on how to evaluate traditional medicines for safety and efficacy for priority diseases in Africa have been formulated. Creation of close working relationship between practitioners of both health care systems is strongly recommended so as to revamp trust among each other and help to access information and knowledge from both sides through appropriate modalities. In Tanzania, gaps that exist between THPs and scientists/BHP in health research have been addressed through recognition of THPs among stakeholders in the country's health sector as stipulated in the National Health Policy, the Policy and Act of TRM and CAM. Parallel to that, several research institutions in TRM collaborating with THPs are operating. Various programmed research projects in TRM that has involved THPs and other stakeholders are ongoing, aiming at complementing the two health care systems. This paper discusses global, regional and national perspectives of TRM development and efforts that have so far been directed towards bridging the gap between THPs and scientist/BHP in contemporary health research in Tanzania. (author's)