Contribution of traditional healers to a rural tuberculosis control programme in Hlabisa, South Africa

Mark Colvin*, L. Gumede, K. Grimwade, D. Maher, D. Wilkinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


SETTING: The rural health district of Hlabisa, Kwa-Zulu-Natal, South Africa. OBJECTIVES: To assess the acceptability and effectiveness of traditional healers as supervisors of tuberculosis (TB) treatment in an existing directly observed treatment, short-course (DOTS) programme. DESIGN: An observational study comparing treatment outcomes among new TB patients in the three intervention sub-districts offered the additional option of traditional healers for directly observed treatment (DOT) supervision with those in the remainder of the district offered the standard range of options for DOT supervision (health facility, community health worker and lay persons). A comparison was also made of treatment outcomes between different options for DOT supervision. RESULTS: A total of 3461 TB patients were registered in Hlabisa District from April 1999 to December 2000, of whom 2823 were discharged from hospital to the ambulatory DOT programme. Treatment outcomes were known for 1816 patients in Hlabisa District (275 patients in the intervention area and 1541 patients in the control area). There was no significant difference (P < 0.5) in treatment outcome in the intervention and control areas (77% vs. 75%). Among 275 patients with known outcomes in the intervention area, 48 patients were supervised by traditional healers and 227 patients supervised by people other than traditional healers. Treatment completion was not significantly higher among patients supervised by traditional healers than among patients supervised by other categories of DOT supervisor (88% vs. 75%, P = 0.3841). Interviews with 41 of 51 traditional healer patients who had completed treatment revealed high levels of satisfaction with the care received. CONCLUSIONS: Traditional healers make an effective contribution to TB programme performance in this pilot scheme in Hlabisa district. Further evaluation will be necessary as this approach is scaled up.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S86–S91
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease
Issue number9 SUPPL. 1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Community care
  • DOTS
  • Rural
  • Traditional healers
  • Treatment outcomes
  • Tuberculosis


Dive into the research topics of 'Contribution of traditional healers to a rural tuberculosis control programme in Hlabisa, South Africa'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this