Expanding the knowledge and skills of traditional health practitioners so they can assume more responsible roles in primary health care programmes can be a productive and rewarding experience: for the trainers; for the health practitioners; for other health professionals; and for community members. Most healers already have many years of experience attending to the health problems of family members. They are dedicated to serving their clients, and are eager to expand their skills in providing better health care to communities. Trainers can build upon the wealth of knowledge and experience that these traditional health practitioners already have to design and carry out effective training programmes for primary health care.
Evaluation studies of projects that have trained traditional health practitioners have found that when these practitioners complete a training, they return to their communities and continue to disseminate the information they have learned to other healers and healer associations and groups within their communities. Thus, training efforts have a domino effect and are multiplied manyfold. Through local communication channels and networks, traditional healers disseminate their new knowledge to their colleagues and community groups, thus effectively carrying out the principle of "each one teach one".
Projects which have begun to train traditional health practitioners in a variety of primary health care functions have found that communities benefit in assurable ways from the new knowledge and skills of these practitioners. Enhancing the role of these practitioners and promoting closer collaboration between them and the medical community offers new hope for improving the health of individuals and families through sustainable primary health care programmes.