healers' contracting styles

Doug Henwood dhenwood at panix.com
Mon Aug 7 12:14:38 PDT 2000

"African Traditional Healers and Outcome--Contingent Contracts in

Health Care"


Columbia University

Department of Economics

Document: Available from the SSRN Electronic Paper Collection:


Paper ID: Columbia University Working Paper No. 9900-02

Date: May 2000


Email: Mailto:KL206 at columbia.edu

Postal: Columbia University

Department of Economics

Room 1022

420 W. 118th Street

New York, NY 10027 USA

Phone: (212)854-4092

Fax: (212)854-8059

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Traditional healers are a source of health care for which

Africans have always paid and even with the expansion of modern

medicine healers are still popular. This paper advances the

unique view that traditional healers neither possess

supernatural power nor do they take advantage of their clients:

they use important elements of their practice to credibly

deliver unobservable medical effort and therefore high quality

care. An important element of their practice has previously been

ignored: traditional healers use outcome-contingent contracts to

deliver unobservable medical effort. This paper presents

empirical evidence that, as a result of these contracts,

traditional healers are popular because they provide more

unobservable medical effort than other providers from which

patients can choose.

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