Accepted paper:

Tales of treatment: how local voices and public engagement activities can shape the global health research and policy


Nutcha Charoenboon (Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit)
Marco J Haenssgen (University of Warwick)
Kanokporn Wibunjak
Patthanan Thavethanutthanawin

Paper short abstract:

We present a case study of public engagement with research involving indigenous groups in Northern Thailand to illustrate processes and benefits of the co-production of knowledge in global health.

Paper long abstract:

Global health policy champions modernism and biomedical knowledge but often neglects knowledge, beliefs, and identity of indigenous communities in low- and middle-income countries. The growing emphasis in medicine on public engagement with science offers an opportunity to broaden discourses and incorporate local knowledge in hitherto unprecedented ways. We exemplify the case of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as a global health priority and present a case study of public engagement with research involving indigenous groups in Chiang Rai, Northern Thailand. Involving a photography exhibition of traditional "Tales of Treatment" and half-day bi-directional educational activities in three Chiang Rai villages, our case study will: • Exemplify disjunctions and blends of AMR policy and global health discourses on the one hand, and indigenous knowledge on the other hand. • Outline the process, lessons, and difficulties of developing bi-directional communication activities that respond to—and that enable actors to learn from—local medical knowledge. • Analyse behavioural research hypotheses based on local understandings of medicine. • Reflect on the mechanisms required to establish a process of knowledge co-production that will be essential for alternative approaches to AMR policy. Our case study adds nuance to biomedical discourse, helping to break up stereotypes and to understand the behaviour and history of indigenous groups. Traditional practices and behaviours that are seen as a threat to health can be an alternative to modern pharmaceutical interpretations of care, which have fuelled much of current antimicrobial use and thus antimicrobial resistance.

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Decolonising health research for development