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Objective: This study aimed to compare characteristics of clients or patients presenting to monk healers and primary care health facilities in Thailand.
Methods: Consecutively attending clients or patients of three monk healers or three health centres were assessed with self-reported measures of health status, symptoms and perceptions.
Results: The total sample included 1251 participants, 607 from the monk healers and 644 from the health centres. Most participants in the temple and health facility sites were female (76.6% and 72.8%, respectively). Compared to patients attending the health centres, clients of monk healers were younger in age, better educated, and had a higher economic status. The prevalence of heart attack or stroke, emphysema or asthma, sore joints, osteoporosis, cancer, migraine headaches, mental disorder, depression, sleeping problem, and tobacco use problem was significantly higher among clients of monk healers than health care centre patients. While, the prevalence of hypertension and diabetes, was significantly higher among health centre patients than monk healer clients. Main symptoms or problems referring to psychological, social, spiritual, and female genital were significantly more frequent in clients attending monk healers than health centre patients, while main symptoms or problems referring to musculoskeletal, neurological, cardiovascular, digestive, and general and unspecified were significantly more frequent in health centre patients than clients attending monk healers. The causes or aetiology of psycho-social, supernatural and economic were significantly higher among monk healer than health centres clients, while the causes or aetiology behavioural, natural and physical were significantly higher among health centre than monk healer clients.
Conclusion: The study found a high proportion of psychological, social, spiritual, and female genital problems among clients attending monk healers, calling for an integrated approach of primary health care.
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