Laotian Health Culture: An Ethno-epidemiological Study Regarding Fever-related Illness

By Pahurat K. Taisuwan..

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies

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Socio-cultural studies have shown the wide variety of perceptions on fever. Fever, the most common symptom of infectious diseases, has different names and meanings according to the area, custom, and culture. The purpose of the research was, through the adoption of an ethno-epidemiological approach, to better understand Laotian health culture, i.e., beliefs, experiences, and practices related to fever-related illness. Methodology: Qualitative methods, in-depth interview and participant observation, involved in collecting data from eleven Laotian informants who are seeking health-care services from the Thai government hospital because of a fever-related illness. A qualitative data analysis also was applied in this study.
Result: Laotians know they get fever or ‘khaj’ after they ‘jab king’ or touch their body parts (i.e., forehead, neck, arms and legs). They have other terms for ‘fever’ such as ‘jeb’ or ‘puiy’. Moreover, the term related to fever is built on the general term for fever or khaj. Fever-related illness is caused by ‘sia khwan’ (soul loss), ‘plian akard’ (seasonal change), ‘hed wieg nak’ (hard work), or even ‘tidpad’ (intrusion of foreign particles into the body). This last cause is generally stressed when fever and symptoms of another illness (i.e., an acute febrile respiratory infection, dengue, or hemorrhagic fever) become more severe. Laotian people have different therapeutic methods. In case of failure of home remedies, for example, they have recourse to Western medicine more than to traditional medicine, especially when the patient is the only child of a family or when another patient presenting with the same symptoms died in the community. Moreover, they frequently choose to cross the border for seeking health care services in Thailand because of their confidence in the quality and efficiency of the health care system there.
Implication: An ethno-epidemiological approach is a good choice to study of local perceptions on infectious and non-infectious diseases which will help health-care workers, civil workers and social scientists to better understand local beliefs and experiences regarding health and illness, and may lead to the promotion of preventive behaviours, especially in case the of contagious diseases.

Keywords: Laotian Health Culture, Ethno-epidemiology, Fever-related Illness, Qualitative Research

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies, Volume 8, Issue 1, June 2014, pp.11-20. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 334.198KB).

Dr Pahurat K. Taisuwan.

Senior Public Health Officer, Bureau of General Communicable Diseases, Department of Disease Control, Ministry of Public Health, Muang, Nonthaburi, Thailand

Dr. Pahurat K. Taisuwan's first degree is in nursing science from Mahidol University, Thailand. His master's degree and doctoral degree are also from Mahidol University, Thailand. His master degree is of physiology and his doctoral degree is in philosophy (medical and health social sciences). Now, he works for the Thai Ministry of Public Health. He researches communicable disease prevention and control: i.e., surveillance, planning, monitoring, including researching. He also applies his studies to his research in order to better understand local beliefs and experiences regarding health and illness that may lead to promotion of preventive behaviours, especially in the case of contagious diseases.