More than 75% of caretakers of children living with sickle cell disease in Uganda report using herbal medicines. They also believe that herbals cure symptoms faster and carry fewer side effects than conventional therapy.
The World Health Organisation estimates that about 80% of the global population use herbal medicines to cure their ailments. It cuts across both acute and chronic conditions. Sickle cell disease is the most common genetic disorder in sub-Saharan Africa. With its chronicity, the propensity to associate it with herbal medicine use is hypothetically high. Several studies have substantiated this fact across the various countries in Africa – yet such studies have been lacking in Uganda. However, this may not be the case anymore because Martin Lubega and colleagues, in a descriptive cross-sectional quantitative study, assessed the prevalence of herbal medicine use among caretakers to children living with sickle cell disease in Uganda: the results are fascinating. We highlight their findings in today’s article.
Martin Lubega et al. interviewed 384 caretakers of children living with sickle cell disease. They noted that more than 75% of them were either using or had used herbal medicines to manage their children to alleviate the symptoms associated with sickle cell disease. They also reported that more caretakers agreed that herbal medicines cured symptoms faster than conventional therapy. Further still, they believed that herbal medicines possessed fewer side effects and that television adverts greatly influenced herbal medicine use.
The findings of this inaugural study are intriguing for several reasons. First, there’s evidence that even among children living with sickle cell disease – despite the ongoing campaigns to educate the public on the symptomatic management of the disease within the urban centres, caretakers still consider herbal medicines superior to conventional therapy. It implies that health care workers haven’t done enough to change the perception of Ugandans about complementary remedies. Second, for the first time across the continent, research has acknowledged the potency of television adverts as driving forces towards the consumption of herbal medicines. Advertisers play a crucial role in informing the public about what to consume. Many Ugandans trust the information that televisions generate because they are their prime source of information. It is, therefore, prudent that more health care providers provide health information via television channels to counteract the potentially destructive adverts about the efficacy of herbal medicines within the country.
With the findings of this study, it’s incumbent upon health care providers to deliberately engage with children and their attendants to delineate information on how they use conventional and herbal medicines and educate them on the pros and cons of combining the two forms of therapy. It is prudent that clinicians inform caretakers about the possibility of drug interactions that may damage the liver and kidney.