Traditional Medicine And Refugee Women's Health In The Thai-Myanmar Border Region

Author

Songsri Pipitkul1 Zaw Min Oo2, Gerard Bodeker3, Cora Neumann4, Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden (QSBG), Mae Rim, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2 Global Initiative For Traditional Systems (GIFTS) of Health, Oxford, UK; & Guest researcher, QSBG, Thailand, 3 Chair, Global Initiative For Traditional Systems (GIFTS) of Health, Oxford, UK; University of Oxford Medical School, UK; Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, USA., Oxford Institute for International Development, University of Oxford,

Proceeding

1st International Conference & Exhibition on Women's Health & Asian Traditional (WHAT) Medicine

Date

23/8/2005

Keyword

traditional medicine, refugee women's health, reproductive and sexual health issues, ethnomedicinal resources , medicinal plants database

Abstract

More than 1 million Burmese refugees and forced migrants live in Thailand. This poster reports on the progress & outcomes of a research partnership between the Global Initiative for Traditional Systems (GIFTS) of Health, Oxford, UK and the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden (QSBG), Thailand, on refugee health in the Thai-Burma border region. Findings indicate that traditional medicine continues to be preferred for many common health conditions - including women’s reproductive and sexual health issues - and that valuable ethnomedicinal resources exist for women’s health in this area. Our programme includes research on knowledge and use of traditional medicine among female outpatients at Mae Tao Refugee Clinic; interviews with female traditional health practitioners; development of a network of herbalists, providing coordinated traditional healthcare services to rural refugee villages and communities; and development of a medicinal plants database for community and healthworker use. Survey findings on refugee clinic outpatients revealed that 42 female respondents listed nearly 191 traditional remedies used for common health conditions, and 13 of these respondents reported learning this knowledge from mothers or grandmothers. The female traditional practitioners interviewed specialized in women’s health and were actively treating refugee women in the Mae Sot region. Our medicinal plants database includes ethnobotanical and medicinal information on plants commonly available throughout northwest Thailand and the Thai-Myanmar border region, including information on safe and effective use of traditional medicines. Of the 400 plants currently listed in the database, 52 are used for treatment of women’s health conditions including pre- and antenatal care, menstrual disorders, sexually transmitted diseases and breast cancer. This information will be included in field manuals for use by traditional practitioners, community health workers and refugee families throughout the region. Our research and programme findings indicate that women play an integral role in the practice and passing on of traditional health knowledge, and that valuable medicinal plant resources exist for treating a range of women’s health conditions. Recognizing and harnessing the potential of safe, affordable and culturally acceptable traditional medicines can contribute to improving health services and the health status of women who have become refugees.