Faith Healers

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Faith healing is the process of preventing and curing illness or disease through a belief in an omnipotent force or creator (God) of the universe. It is a healing process that focuses on both the body and the mind. An important foundation for successful healing in a spiritual context is faith, which has always been at the core of spirituality and religion. Increasingly, the public health and medical communities have come to realize the value of faith in the healing process and have been trying to understand how spiritual and religious factors affect healing. Indeed, faith is considered to be "one of the miracles of human nature which science is as ready to accept as it is to study its marvelous effects" (Osler 1910, p. 1471). Faith in today's practice of medicine can, in a sense, be observed in instances such as a physician praying before surgery, a traditional healer's prayer during treatment, or physicians and healers leaving a prognosis up to the patient's "will to live."

Spirituality and traditional healing experiences of immigrants and ethnic minorities (primarily from Africa, Asia, and Latin America) have provided important insights into the role of faith in health outcomes and the critical role of the faith healer in achieving positive health outcomes. Studies have shown positive relationships between religious/spiritual faith and positive health outcomes for different health conditions among different groups. More research is needed to better understand and document scientifically the contribution of faith healing to the mission of public health. There is a strong and growing partnership between public health and the faith community, based on the increasing understanding of and appreciation for faith healing in improving the health of the public.

Collins O. Airhihenbuwa

(see also: Acculturation; Alternative, Complementary, and Integrative Medicine; Customs; Ethnocentrism; Folk Medicine; Immigrants, Immigration; Minority Rights


Levin, J. S. (1994). "Religion and Health: Is There an Association, Is It Valid, and Is It Causal?" Social Science Medicine 38:14751482.

Osler, W. (1910). "The Faith that Heals." British Medical Journal (June 18):14701472.