Lee, Hyeonji

School of Public Health



Thailand-Acceptance and Use of Traditional and Alternative Medicine among Medical Specialists in Thailand

The use of Thai traditional and alternative medicine (TAM) has increased, especially after the launch of national policy, rising number of traditional medicine practitioner, and dedicated financing mechanism. However, there has been a lack of evidence of the acceptance and use of TAM among modern medicine doctors, which is believed to vary across medical specialties.

PI Mentor: Krit Pongpirul

It has been almost a month from my global health field placement experience in Bangkok. I learned a lot, experienced a lot, and most importantly, I met great people. When I arrived at the airport, my initial feeling was "this city is really humid!". Besides the strong first impression of its weather, I was so excited to experience new things and meet new people. 

My research topic was "A systematic review on the use and acceptance of traditional medicine by medical specialists". Since I have never participated in a real research program before, I was slightly nervous whether I could come up with a good quality of performance. However, my program director, Krit Pongpirul, was always welcomed to answer any questions I had. It really helped me to get used to the project much faster. While I did the project, I was able to learn a lot about how medical specialists view the use of traditional medicine. For example, they may show either positive or negative attitudes based on their personal experience, socioeconomic status, previous education, patients' attitudes on the use of traditional medicine. 

Thailand is the country where has a good balance between the use of conventional and traditional medicine. People still visit the center of traditional medicine to receive the massage service or natural herbs for the treatment. On the other hand, Thailand's medical service is internationally well-known for its quality. It is not difficult to see a diverse group of people visiting the hospital in Bangkok. The most striking part when I visited the hospitals where my program director worked was the gap between rich and poor. I was able to visit two different hospitals. One was the national hospital, where most local Thai residents visit. Another one was the private hospital, where is known as its luxury services and accommodation. Thailand's GDP per capita (National Economic and Social Development Council, 2018) is about 7,000USD, but it is not difficult to see people spending thousands of dollars in the luxury private hospital.

However, it is also true that a lot of people are struggling with serious diseases without receiving proper treatment. When I visited the Public Health Office in Samutsongkram province, I saw a lot of public health officials and had a chance to hear how they think of Thailand's public health issues. They found that there are much more to improve in terms of public health services in Thailand and discussed. From the visit in the province, I was able to see a lot of local Thai people, especially who reside in a rural area, using traditional medicine. But I was able to see a lot of passionate people who were ready to give their hands to people in need.

While I was in Thailand, I was surprised at people's attention to environmental health. For the first two months, I always got a plastic straw whenever I ordered the drink. There was no hesitant of giving me plastic bags as well. However, people started to change. Some markets held environmental friendly events such as "no plastic bag day" or "using a paper straw". I was so glad that I could be a part of the movement in Bangkok and I made sure I always used either paper bags or my own bag. 

There was no big challenge for me to get used to life in Bangkok except their traffic. Bangkok's traffic jam is quite famous for travelers. At first, I found myself rushing into the meeting with my professor because of traffic. However, I was able to get relaxed because I knew that I could leave my room a little bit earlier than before. People in Thailand are very relaxed and always kind. Sometimes I miss the relaxing atmosphere in Bangkok which is quite opposite from where I live in my home country. 

My decision to participate in the global health field placement was one of the best choices I have ever made in my life. This really helped me to think of my future career as well. I do not have a specific career goal at this moment, but I would like to reach out people who are in need and help them all my best.

In front of the Public Health Office in Samutsongkram province


Robert Bollinger Jr., MD MPH

Director, Johns Hopkins Center for Clinical Global Health Education (CCGHE); Associate Director, Johns Hopkins Center for Global...

Joanne Katz, ScD MS,BSc

Associate Chair, Director of Academic Programs

Caitlin Kennedy, PhD MPH,BA

Co-Director, MPH concentration in Social and Behavioral Sciences in Public Health; Associate Director, Center for Qualitative...

Yukari C. Manabe, MD

Associate Director of Global Health Research and Innovation

Stefan Baral, MD MPH,MBA,MSc

Director, Key Populations Program

Noreen Hynes, MD MPH

Director, Geographic Medicine Center of the Division of Infectious Diseases

August 2019



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