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Liver Fluke Infection and Fish Consumption in Khon Kaen, Thailand: A Case Study on Negotiating the Middle Ground between Western Science and Eastern Culture


This research investigates why typical strategies for promoting health, prolonging life, and preventing disease do not work in many communities. I use the liver fluke infection endemic in Khon Kaen, Thailand to explore the middle ground between Western science and Eastern culture. Prior work on the O.viverrini infection in Khon Kaen, Thailand has focused almost exclusively on developing effective medical treatment for the liver fluke infection. This dissertation employs a case study designed to explore the conditions that created and perpetuate the problem in the first place. In concrete terms, I analyze how the worldviews of local villagers shape their attitudes toward life (and death), which in turn determine if they engage in the high–risk behavior — eating undercooked fish — that makes them vulnerable to the infection. My research focuses on these people in–situ over a three–month period, and includes data from participant–observation, interviews, and video–recordings. This work seeks to illuminate how people’s thinking and reasoning skills, and personal/cultural identities affect their abilities to learn and act on new health concepts. This potentially provides a window into future educational strategies in a complex world.

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