Global Health Cafe: The Role of Cultural Practices

The Global Health landscape is changing and its community is as enthusiastic as ever. In May we gathered at the Health Foundary and discussed the role of culture in Global Health. London School of Economincs student Dalia Majongwe presented on her work in Global Health Policy and then played us some delightful Mbira. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Masters student, Tarik Endale beautifully wraps the evening up in this guest blog.

“Both traditional healers and health facility can treat Degedege [local term for seizures] effectively. Sometimes we [traditional healers] instruct our patients to go to health facility when they suffer blood deficiency [anemia] and dehydration; but also there is a time that a patient from health facility is advised to come to traditional healers because there might be a scenario when the condition of the patient is seen as more spiritual than scientific; hence needs a spiritual intervention”


The passage above is from an interview with a traditional healer in rural Tanzania. As one of many who were interviewed for my research regarding knowledge, attitudes, and practices surrounding febrile convulsions, his response was not at all uncommon. In fact, it was illustrative of many of the key points presented by London School of Economics student and Global Health Policy researcher Dalia Majongwe (Twitter: @Dali_Lamah) on May 2 at the second session of the newly founded Global Health Café. Mainly that in Global Health, culture is inextricably tied to behaviors and policies, including:

  • Access and utilization of health services
  • Health-seeking behavior
  • Interactions between communities and formal or informal/traditional systems of healing
  • Marginalized/abused groups
  • Designing programs, policies, and advocacy strategies

From healing, such as in Haitian Voodoo Rituals, to HIV/AIDs among Malawian “Hyena Men” and from substance use and “Flash Blooding” in Tanzania all the way to the containment of Ebola in Sierra Leone, to ignore the role of culture is to miss some of the most interesting and important intersections of Global Health. In discussing the challenges and opportunities created by these interfaces of culture and health, the topic of hard to reach communities arose, a notion which special guest Dr. Titilola Banjoko promptly challenged by asking “Are they hard to reach or are you not reaching hard enough?”


Lively discussions like these are the lifeblood of the innovation and new connections that we need to build sustainable solutions for better health in Africa. This is what global health experts Dorcas Gwata and Adebusuyi Adeyemi sought to promote with this new platform and why the emerging community that is the Global Health Café is so exciting. Follow along at @TheGHCafe and we hope to see you at the next session on June the 27th at the Health Foundary


Tarik Endale (@the_etheropian)

LSHTM Candidate – MSc in Global Mental Health

Researcher at the Mental Health Innovation Network

Blog hosted by Dorcas Gwata. Director of Tribal Sands


Thanks to the Global Health Gang, Ade Adebusuyi, Dalia Majongwe and Tarik Endale


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