Healthcare in any society plays a pivotal role in the well being of the people both physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. In a well formed society with functioning systems, this healthcare is provided by trained professionals in the form of Doctors, nurses, laboratory scientists amongst others; these work hand in hand to deliver quality healthcare in an attempt to improve the quality of life.
In a community like mine, several factors by their activities on a constant basis pose threats to the emerging goals of our infant healthcare system. One of such factors is the spiritual beliefs of the people. The emphasis will be on the roles some beliefs have played or still play, both positively and negatively, directly or indirectly on the healthcare delivery system.
The importance of good health cannot be overemphasized and the best assessment of this can only come from a subjective point of view, as the local saying that talks about the one who wears the shoe and knows exactly where it hurts. Based on this, a person is required to pay close attention to changes that may occur in health status from time to time and seek advice from qualified healthcare providers to determine the effect the changes may have on the body.
A lot of people in the rural communities in Nigeria where I come from having little or no education rely on their spiritual leaders for almost everything, from issues relating to mental health, physical health, domestic problems etc. Spirituality is a vital part of healthcare as it helps patients most of the time to find peace and heal, most times not necessarily curing the illness but an acceptance of one’s current situation. Other times, spirituality may help in the treatment process as some studies show that people who engage in spiritual practices tend to live longer due to a reduction in production of some destructive chemicals in the body.
In spite of the many benefits of spirituality in healthcare, there are the negative aspects as most people possibly due to ignorance have isolated spirituality from healthcare through their practices. For example, seeking to visit a spiritual home rather than a hospital in the event of a health challenge. Some even disregard Doctor’s advise and would rather listen to their spiritual leaders only to return to the doctors when their conditions worsen and when they cannot be helped. Some reports have even shown how some communities refuse immunization as they see it as evil as advised by their spiritual leaders.
These challenges are enormous, and have raised serious concern among health providers as to the future of the health system. Now what is to be done? Proper education! education, education, education can not be overemphasized, both for the people, for the spiritual leaders and for all. The people should see the need to accept healthcare when provided as it is not even enough to go round in these parts owing to the fact that our health system is still in the cradle.
By this, little by little we can all join hands and grow our healthcare system, lay the foundation for a sustainable system that will work both for us and generations yet unborn. We cannot turn a blind eye to this emerging menace. It concerns us all! Who knows, your grandma in the village may be the next victim of “spiritual frequency” and “incontinence”.
Written by Osinachi George
(A 4th year medical student with a genuine love for writing)