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National Health Archives and Museum
By: (1127) | Date: July 16, 2014

                   The permanent exhibition “100 Things Past: People, Ideas, Inventions and Stories” of this National Health Archives and Museum challenges viewers to ponder and start having queries about the multi-aspects of health. People’s ways of thinking, beliefs and social values – diverse as they are, have influenced and transformed many cultural and social aspects regarding public policies on health. This health and medical museum therefore examines the development or reforms of the national health systems in Thailand. The exhibition, content-based, comprises 9 zones: “Inner Universe, Outer Universe,” “Diversity in Medicine,” “Health Wisdom,” “Medicine in Crisis,” “Well-Being of the Soul,” “Historical Traces of Thai Ways of Health,” “Death and the Last Moment of Life,” and “Health and Society.” These 9 presentations need not be viewed in order. Visitors are free to start at any zone they like. The following is a few interesting issues and related highlight stories about our indigenous healing systems:
                   “Men allowed to treat women in childbirth” – in olden day Thailand, a man was forbidden to touch a noble court lady, not even to perform certain medical services. In Vietnam, too, this was also true as a court doctor could only feel the pulse of a sick lady by putting only his finger tips on her wrist, which was wrapped up in a silk cloth. In Thailand, the western medical cares of helping a pregnant woman to deliver her baby were allowed in the Siamese royal court during the time Dr. Bradley was working here. He was the first western-trained doctor who introduced western medicine. This happened in King Rama IV’s time. Since then western cares were accepted, and later established in the Thai society.
                   “Eat right: more food and less rice, for civilized culture and better hygiene” – so read the slogan on the posters promoting the national food project, much popularized at the time of Prime Minister General P. Pibulsongkram. The Prime Minister encouraged Thais to adopt western culture in the interest of progressivism. He advocated western hygiene that stressed more course dishes and eggs in lieu of traditional Thai food such as chilli dippings and local fresh vegetables. However, it is only true that people’s ways of thinking and beliefs change over time. We now believe, for example, that many of our homely, typical Thai dishes are good nutritionwise and do not cause obeisity.
                   “Fair complexion is nice” – fair skin was associated with beauty, another legacy of the imperialism. Things fair and white, as Thais were encouraged to believe, were also associated with being civilized. Once there was a detergent (Rinso) advertisement which stated “White garments contribute to career advancement.” In the advertisement, the woman’s clothes looked white and clean because she always had them washed using the Rinso detergent. The woman looked good, and had a good job. This social norm persists until today, as most people still regard fair complexion, also around the armpit areas, as being desirable.
                    “Doctor monk who can heal physical and mental sicknesses” – this came from the fact that the temple was always significantly regarded as a school, or a learning center for the community people. It was actually an all-in-one institute – a library, a school, a hospital, and a canteen for the poor. It was also a source of knowledge that was contained in Thai wood-pulp books and traditional medicinal texts. A lot of these valuable texts were kept in the temples. Even nowadays there are still many temples which have maintained this reputation of being learning centers. One example is Wat Nong Ya-nang in Uthai Thani Province. Phra Kru Ooppakarapattanakit had the temple open to provide care and healing services to sick people. The Ministry of Health came to recognize this valuable public service and authorized the temple, in 2004, to be a learning center of traditional Thai medicine.
                   “Yai/Grandma Niam, the last midwife of Chalawan town” – during the time when obstetricians did not exist, midwives were indispensable in every single village and town. For a woman to become a midwife was not easy. The knowledge of midwifery had to be passed down from the teacher. The learner had to study hard until the teacher was satisfied and trusted that the learner had the required knowledge and ethics to be fully responsible for the mother’s and the baby’s lives. Yai Niam Inprang was the last midwife living in Pichit town. She had been trained in midwifery cares by her own father. Yai Niam was very famous because none of the pregnant women she treated died during delivery. As time went by, old cares and cures were replaced gradually by modern medical practices. So the midwife’s role naturally faded, and disappeared finally.
                   “Written statement of a patient’s will to be treated or not treated medically in his/her last days” – this concept from the west, particularly the United States from 1960-1970, was about the idea that a sick person had the right to choose his/her own destiny – whether to accept (or refuse) the final cures, which means the use of advanced technologies to prolong life. This issue has been a very controversial one. So recently, a patient is granted the right to “plan his own treatment in advance” in order to lessen the conflicts among relatives and all parties concerned as to whether he/she should or should not have the final cures.
                   The National Health Archives and Museum has a lot more to offer to the public about interesting health system issues that provoke some deep thinking regarding the various aspects of social, economic and political development and reforms, the details of which are available at the Archives and Museum of Thai Health. This “backyard” office of the Health History Archives maintains an interesting collection of archive documents and historical objects related to the Thai public health system. They were presented to the Archives by some individuals as well as by the state and private sectors. Many publications on our health history and relevant subjects are also for free distribution.
Story by Panita Sarawasee
Filed work survey: September 5, 2013
Ref.:Brochures published by Health History Archives          

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  National Health Archives and Museum  
: Build 10, Floor 3, Bamrad Naradun Institution, Tiwanon Rd., Taladkwan Subdistrict, Mueang District, Nonthaburi 11000
: 0-2951-1009
: 0-2951-1009
: Monday - Friday from 9.00 am - 4.30 pm
: free admission
: http://www.nham.or.th
: nham.thailand@gmail.com
: 2008
: -
Management : state agency
Story : history
medical science/public health
Status : Open
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