Anthropology Seminar | The role of Thailand’s village health volunteers in preventing and controlling the COVID-19 pandemic: A case study from Chiang Mai province
Thursday 29 October, 3-4PM. Join via this Zoom link. For other enquiries please contact Terry Woronov
Thailand was the first country to detect a case of COVID-19 outside of China on 13 January 2020. Despite this, COVID-19 cases and related deaths recorded in mid-October 2020 are remarkably low with 3,652 total cases and a death toll of 59. The World Health Organisation attribute the low incidence rates to Thailand’s well-established primary health care system and pandemic preparedness. The low rates have also been linked to cultural factors that reduce physical contact. Thailand’s military government and health minister credit the low rates largely to their rapid public health response. This paper suggests more credit should be given to Thailand’s over one million village health volunteers (VHVs). VHVs have been involved in monitoring returnees from other provinces or overseas, COVID temperature testing, raising awareness of prevention and control, including the use of face masks. I argue that the success of the VHV program owes much to the activism of reformist doctors against medical elitism, and is built on generosity, communitarianism and volunteerism encouraged by Buddhist ethics. This paper examines the important role of Thailand’s VHVs in preventing and controlling the spread of pandemics and problematic issues they face.
About the Speaker
Anjalee Cohen is a senior lecturer in Department of Anthropology, University of Sydney. She specialises in medical anthropology and Thailand.