PHRAE'S SUNG MEN district has created the country's first health charter that includes local knowledge of herbal medicines.
The traditional medicinal treatments are carried out by mor muang, a local name for those the villagers call sages, who make medicines from herbs and plants according to formulas passed down since generations.
In Phrae, such medicine textbooks – written on bailan (dried palm leaves) over 100 years ago – were preserved in Wat Phra Luang’s sacred library museum. Sung Men district’s oldest mor muang is Jamnong Maenya, 76, who lives in tambon Phra Luang.
To preserve the local skills, Jamnong proposed during a public forum that the district’s health charter include this ancient system of traditional medicine. The topic was added into the district’s 8th health charter about the self-sufficiency economy, local wisdom development and Thai traditional medicine and alternative treatments.
The National Health Commission Office (NHCO) recently brought a media team to exchange ideas during its third annual trip to Sung Men district when all sides came together for a health promotion. The district’s health charter encouraged public policies which enabled the district to win the National Health Assembly 2013 “1 Area” award, granted to a community with a health charter.
The health charter is a new scheme in Thailand under the National Health Act 2007, which allowed local people to set up a health policy and partake in health promotion activities. It was produced by parties, which divided the workload among themselves and ensured transparent participation so that everyone accepted and abided by the charter.
Thailand was among the world’s first to produce a health charter. Other countries with similar policies and strategy were the United States, the United Kingdom and Brazil. There are two health charters run with local participation in Thailand; one in tambon Chalae of Songkhla’s Singha Nakhon district and the other in Phrae’s Sung Men district. The latter was the country’s first and took effect in December 5, 2009.
Sung Men Hospital director Dr Saengchai Pongpitpitak, who initiated the award-winning Sung Men health charter, said it aimed to have Sung Men people move jointly, through a learning process and community participation, towards becoming a “happy district”. He said project implementation was more successful such as a campaign against alcohol drinking, a project for using traditional medicine, a project to promote breastfeeding, and projects to promote good health among the elderly and to take care of ailing elderly and chronically ill persons by community health officials and volunteers.
Jamnong said that after the mor muang’s skills were included in the charter, a learning centre for herbal medicine production and contribution was set up. The tambon Phra Luang Health Promotion Hospital also provides traditional services such as body massage, hot-steam herbal sachets and first-aid herbal medicines. Tambon Phra Luang has become a model for traditional medicine and has promoted changes at other tambons within Sung Men district.
The charter also led to the establishment of tambon Don Mul Health Centre, manned by professional nurses from Sung Men Hospital to provide first-aid and disease prevention activities for local villagers.