An effective training programme requires careful planning which begins by collecting information from health organizations, indigenous groups, communities and traditional practitioners.
Review existing policies and regulations
Government Ministries of Health, NGOs, and other health agencies may have already established policies for how THPs should be trained and utilized in their jurisdictions. Carefully review these policies and regulations to determine any limitations for training and incorporating THPs into PHC programmes.
Involve THPs and community members in the planning
Involving community members and THPs in the planning and implementation of the programme is essential for success. Community leaders, teachers, and healers can be extremely helpful in identifying needs, recruiting and selecting participants, making the training content relevant, evaluating progress, and in providing other kinds of support for the project.
It is particularly important to ask healers what they want to learn so their needs can be incorporated into the training content. Equally important is to ask community leaders to participate in the selection of healers to be trained. Without this involvement there is a high risk that the most respected and dedicated healers in the community will not be chosen and that healers may not be committed to the project.
It is also essential that good collaboration exist between members of the community, the staff of the training project and appropriate health and medical units involved.
Identify the health conditions of communities
Training objectives should be aimed at promoting good health and reducing or eliminating illness and disease. It is important, therefore, to identify the significant health problems that exist in the target communities. These can be determined by examining the health agency's priorities and goals and from talking with community leaders.
A good way to identify the health needs of a community is to perform a simple community survey by talking with community members and THPs. Information about a community's health and social needs and the resources that exist for health improvements is very valuable for planning a successful PHC programme.
Identify the types of health practitioners available
In the sample projects studied there were two general categories of traditional healers: Traditional birth attendants, or midwives; and another group which included herbalists, bonesetters, and spiritualists. Experience has shown that training for TBAs and training for "other" types of healers can be separated into at least two different curricula. The scope of duties and training for TBAs has been more uniform, whereas the training for other types of healers has varied depending upon the types of health services they perform in communities. One common denominator with healers in this latter group is that most use herbal remedies in their treatments.
Identify important characteristics of health practitioners
It is very important to identify characteristics such as age and sex; level of education; language; economic status; and traditional beliefs about healing. These characteristics are important to know when planning training because they can help in how you structure the curricula, at what grade level to write lesson plans, what kind of translation is required for different languages, the types of visual aids and learning experiences you need to create, and so forth.