School of Arts & Sciences
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
This past summer, I worked in Bangkok, Thailand for a Global Health Established Field Placement project. My research team consisted of me, a Hopkins graduate student, a PhD candidate, and the PI. We conducted a systematic review of the use and acceptance of traditional and alternative medicine (TAM) among medical specialists. The need for this research stems from the growing number of traditional medicine practitioners and a national policy change to integrate Thai Traditional Medicine (TTM) in the national health care system.
TTM is Thailand’s own system of traditional medicine, which consist of herbal medicines, massages, herbal steam baths, and much more. Traditional medicine has a long history in Thailand. It can be traced back to the 1200s. Starting in 1916, systematic teaching of TTM in medical school came to a halt, influence of western medicine increased, and the status of TTM practitioners declined. With the WHO’s Alma-Ata Declaration in 1978, TTM saw a revival, and Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health and the government has promoted policies to re-integrate TTM into the country’s health care system.
In my role as a research assistant, I got to observe firsthand this integration process both in the city and the more rural provinces. Going into this experience, my perception of traditional medicine was very limited. I assumed it just involved herbal treatments and indigenous practices that remain largely unregulated. I did not think it would involve so much regulations, standards, and policies, scientific research, and formal educational or training systems for practitioners. It was also amazing to see an entire center dedicated to TAM at the world class Bumrungrad International Hospital. Moreover, TAM treatments were integrated with modern equipment in a very advanced facility, which is not an image I had in mind when I think about a TAM center. It was interesting to see the innovative ways in which TAM was being integrated into the mainstream health system.
Living and working in Bangkok was vastly different from my past experiences in the field of global health. For a majority of the time I was working at my desk reading and analyzing articles for the systematic review. My past experiences in global health normally involved more field work. Although Thailand is classified as a developing country, some of the world’s largest and most famous malls, five-star hotels, and skyscrapers line the streets of Bangkok that sometimes it was hard to believe that I was actually in a developing country. This goes to show that global health does not just entail working in villages or working directly with local communities and in reality, is a tremendously diverse field with so many opportunities. I am excited to continue my journey in global health and would encourage students to apply to the GHEFP. You will meet new people, visit beautiful places, immerse yourself in a new culture, and learn so much yourself and what you are capable of.
Visit to the Thai Traditional Medicine Research Institute