Belief Systems and Health Behaviors in Guinea-Bissau

Alexander Coutts

Schulich School of Business, York University and NOVAFRICA

Teresa Molina-Millán

University of Alicante and NOVAFRICA

Pedro C. Vicente

Nova School of Business and Economics, BREAD and NOVAFRICA

ISSN 2183-0843
Working Paper No 2207
November 2022


Traditional beliefs about the supernatural are widespread in many countries around the world, and are particularly strong in many regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. We discuss the implementation and proposed randomized evaluation of a new type of health campaign which brings together modern and traditional health workers in Guinea-Bissau. In this setting, 63% of our random sample of rural mothers has been to a witchdoctor, and 65% believes that curses have the power to kill. Our campaign innovates in two key ways. First, it aims to shift beliefs and behavior by directly addressing traditional beliefs in an open and respectful way. And second, by including witchdoctors in the campaign, it boosts trust in modern health practices among those with more traditional beliefs.

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