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Healing Herbs and Dangerous Doctors

As mentioned in our April 25th blog post in honor of  World Malaria Day, AAA recognized this important day with a special virtual issue of Medical Anthropology Quarterly. This special edition re-released articles which demonstrate ways that ethnography and human behavior studies help to change care management and public health policy.

Approximately half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria, particularly those living in lower-income countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO calculates that every 30 seconds a child dies of malaria. By joining the global movement to roll back these staggering statics on malaria, anthropologists serve as catalyst around the world to research the medical and cultural impacts of this disease and share their findings to help count malaria out.

Over the coming weeks, each article will be featured here on the AAA blog. Here is the fourth of seven highlighted articles:

Healing Herbs and Dangerous Doctors: “Fruit Fever” and Community Conflicts with Biomedical Care in Northeast Thailand
Jen Pylypa
Medical Anthropology Quarterly, December 2007

In Northeast Thailand, khai mak mai (fruit fever) is a local, ethnomedical category of illness identified by community members as untreatable by biomedical health providers. The illness is believed to be incompatible with several substances that may induce death, including fruit as well as two forms of medication associated with biomedical care: injections and intravenous solution. Consequently, fevers suspected of being khai mak mai are treated by herbalists while biomedical health services are avoided and feared. In this article, I examine local perceptions and treatment of khai mak mai. I also explore the context and consequences of concerns about the inadequacy of biomedical care, as well as the social meanings associated with the illness and the political-economic context that shapes both the meanings of, and everyday responses to, fevers suspected of being khai mak mai.

To read the entire article, click here.


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