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Health and Medicine in Thailand


The prevalence of diseases is one of the current global challenges. However, the provision of superior medical services has remained a significant challenge in many countries. Thailand is one of the Asian countries that have made tremendous developments in health services (Sanguan, 2009, p. 245). Before the introduction of contemporary medical services, Thai citizens depended on traditional medical procedures. European health services reached Thailand in the early 19th century and gradually replaced traditional medical services. This paper discusses health and medicine in Thailand.

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Burden of Disease

Health researchers must have a good sample size when scrutinizing changes in long-term medical conditions of a given population. “Many researchers measure the burden of disease in a population using the disability-adjusted life year (DALY) methodology” (Kathryn, 2007, p. 25). This method is advantageous because it indicates how mental impairments cause high levels of disability (Kathryn, 2007, p. 25).

Just like other countries, Thailand is grappling with the burden of disease. Several studies in Thailand indicate that HIV/AIDS and motorway accidents are the major causes of DALY. Other common causes of DALY include drug abuse, cancer, and depression. Research that was conducted in 2010 revealed that accidents, heart diseases, and HIV/ AIDS were the three main causes of DALY in Thailand. Overall, “the three risk factors that account for the high disease burden in Thailand are dietary risks, tobacco smoking and abuse of alcohol” (Adam & Wanwiphang, 2012, pp. 123-124).

Social Economic Health Determinants

The health status of an individual is often determined by his social and economic conditions (Kathryn, 2007, p. 65). There is no standard measurement of socioeconomic conditions of a person or a family, but individual assets, occupation, and level of education can be applied in the evaluation of an individual’s status in a community (Kathryn, 2007, p. 65). These features are inextricably connected to the health status of a person. Generally, many people in Thailand are middle-income earners and can afford primary medical services. Furthermore, universal health coverage enables poor citizens to access basic medical services (Vasoontara & Gordon, 2010, p. 104). However, the level of income of an individual determines his or her ability to access better health services (Krit & Barbara, 2009, p. 686).

Access to Health and Healthcare Inequality

There is physical and financial access to medical care (Kathryn, 2007, pp. 338-340). For example, physical barriers and lack of health services can hinder an individual from accessing medical services. Conversely, health services may be available, but an individual may not afford them due to poverty (Kathryn, 2007, pp. 338-340). The right to health has often raised contentious arguments among health experts and politicians. Some individuals contend that healthcare is an essential human right; therefore, it should be accessible to all individuals (Kathryn, 2007, pp. 338-340). On the other hand, some people argue that the right to health cannot be implemented easily because it requires many resources.

The government of Thailand has undertaken various initiatives to ameliorate health services in the country. In 1997, the rights-based approach to health services was adopted in the constitution of Thailand. According to the constitution, “a person shall enjoy an equal right to receive standard public health services, and the poor have the right to receive free medical treatment from public health facilities” (Vasoontara & Gordon, 2010, p. 103). Before 2001, health insurance schemes in Thailand were not harmonized and were implemented separately by insurance companies. Moreover, approximately twenty percent of Thai citizens lacked medical insurance; hence, there were serious inequalities in the health sector. In 2001, “the government introduced universal medical coverage to make health services accessible to all citizens” (Krit & Barbara, 2009, p. 690). The government also subsidized basic health services to enable poor people to access basic medical services.

Status of Child Health

Child healthcare is an important aspect of any medical system because the wellbeing of children is essential to the development of a nation (Kathryn, 2007, p. 4). Moreover, children are vulnerable to diseases; hence, they need proper health services. The health sector of Thailand provides various child health services. In addition, the government has allocated resources for child healthcare programs (Vasoontara & Gordon, 2010, p. 104). For example, the government in collaboration with donors regularly vaccinates children. In the past few years, child mortality has reduced significantly in Thailand due to improved health services (Krit & Barbara, 2009, p. 690).

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Control of infectious diseases

There are many infectious diseases in Thailand, but tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and malaria are the most widespread (Sian, 2013, p. 12). These diseases affect many people and contribute to high levels of mortality. In 1952, “the government of Thailand established the Ministry of Public Health to provide health services throughout the country” (Sanguan, 2009, pp. 14-16). At present, the government of Thailand in collaboration with the private sector and civil society has developed various programs to mitigate the prevalence of infectious ailments (Sanguan, 2009, pp. 18-21). For example, the government creates public awareness about infectious diseases and provides medical services to individuals suffering from infectious diseases. In addition to medical support, the government has been funding community-based organizations that support individuals suffering from infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. “Public programs have begun to alter unsafe behavior, but discrimination against those infected continues” (Sian, 2013, p. 18).

Non-communicable Diseases

“Non-communicable diseases can be defined as conditions such as heart diseases, kidney diseases, cancers, metabolic disorders, and digestive diseases” (Kathryn, 2007, p. 31). Some of the common non-communicable diseases in Thailand include obesity, hypertension, heart complications, and respiratory diseases. Most non-communicable diseases in Thailand are caused by poor nutrition and drug abuse. The government has introduced various measures to curb drug abuse in Thailand. Government hospitals provide medical therapy to individuals suffering from non-communicable diseases. The government also promotes research on non-communicable diseases (Sanguan, 2009, pp. 255-256).


Research indicates that proper nutrition contributes to the well-being of a person. To remain healthy, an individual requires various nutrients to enhance his or her body immunity. An individual can avoid many ailments by regularly eating a balanced diet (Kathryn, 2007, p. 11). In Thailand, malnutrition is one of the causes of diseases among children and elderly persons. Poor nutrition has been classified as one of the causes of terminal illnesses such as diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer. Health surveys in Thailand indicate that majority of individuals suffering from obesity have poor diets (Adam & Wanwiphang, 2012, p. 130).


This discussion has shown that Thailand has made impressive improvements in its health sector by introducing various medical reforms. In addition, the government has improved the health status of citizens by making medical services accessible to all of them.


Adam, W., & Wanwiphang, M. (2012). The Health Effects of Universal Healthcare: Evidence from Thailand. Journal of Health, 2(3), 123-145.

Kathryn, J. (2007). Introduction to Global Health. New York: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Krit, P., & Barbara, S. (2009). Policy characteristics facilitating primary healthcare in Thailand: A pilot study in transitional country. International Journal for Equity in Health, 15(5), 685-696.

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Sanguan, N. (2009). Evolution of primary healthcare in Thailand: What policies worked? Health Policy and Planning, 5(3), 246-254.

Sian, C. (2013). Stigma related to HIV and AIDS as a barrier to accessing health care in Thailand: A review of recent literature. Journal of Public Health, 2(1), 12-22.

Vasoontara, Y., & Gordon, C. (2010). Has universal health insurance reduced socioeconomic inequalities in urban and rural health service use in Thailand? Health Place, 16(5), 103–105.

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