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Religion, Medicine and Healing in the Volta region of Ghana

Grant Winners

  • Eileen Smith-Cavros, PhD – Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences
  • Joyce Avotri-Wuaku, PhD – Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences
  • Irina Vicnansky – Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences
  • Marcel Zikofsky – Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences


  • Don Rosenblum, PhD – Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences


Award Winners

Ghanaian health care resources range from western-trained doctors to traditional healers. Ghanaians have varying access to resources dependent on factors from location to socioeconomics to individual choices. This project explores and analyzes local understandings connecting health issues to religion. This research will be undertaken in villages in Volta Region. The research team asks if and how Ghanaians' access to, choices, and healthcare beliefs are connected to, and influenced by, spiritual beliefs. The objectives are to examine and analyze differences and similarities in perceptions of health systems, illness, referrals, and treatments among religious Ghanaians who have experienced a recent non-life threatening illness. Christianity, African traditional religions, Islam, and Hinduism are blended into various forms of syncretic religions in Ghana, and while prior research has examined health in light of specific religions, we propose examining the role of the syncretic. Variables examined will not be limited to religious beliefs and practices. We will also consider if and how syncretic religious beliefs may interact with gender, age, and socioeconomics to influence health carerelated beliefs and outcomes. This will be accomplished through 30 face-to-face interviews with villagers including closed and open ended questions. Qualitative data will be analyzed using thematic coding and grounded discourse analysis. Survey-style questions will be analyzed through logistic regression. Findings will be interpreted from ethnomethodological frameworks identifying how Ghanaians "do" illness. Results will inform how people understand and negotiate health issues taking into consideration social and religious roles in perception and reality of illness and treatment. Our research may also reveal what obstacles exist to improved healthcare, and what enhancements may encourage better access. This can help to inform health providers about if and how religion, tradition, and modern medicine interact, particularly important in Ghana where religion plays a central role.

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