In a show of cooperation and a joint commitment to health education, over 250 Village Health Volunteers spent a day away from regional communities to learn more about stroke in a training session at the City Beach Hotel Hua Hin on 12th June. This program was delivered by staff of the Bangkok Hospital Hua Hin and funded by the Hua Hin Municipality. Mr. Nopporn Vutikul, Hua Hin’s Mayor, with Doctor Veerasak Pongphatanaphun, Deputy Director of Bangkok Hospital Hua Hin were there to welcome the volunteers who had come from 35 villages in the region. The theme of the training was “First Aid for Stroke before Transferring to the Doctor”.
However as volunteers are also involved in helping villagers with the aftermath of a stroke, including an ongoing disability and a level of paralysis, Doctor Piphat Chumkasean, a specialist in stroke rehabilitation also addressed these issues of caring for victims in the community. Stroke is recognised as a growing concern in rural areas.
The role of Village health Volunteers in understanding risk factors, early signs and rapid responses is an important aspect of their community role. Village Health Volunteers – Providing Better Health Care in Thailand Villages for Over 50 Years Village Health Volunteers are credited with a significant role in health care moving forward in Thailand. The volunteer system has helped even out inequalities in a society where wealth and medical resources are heavily concentrated in cities. Volunteers spread awareness of disease and screen for chronic illnesses. According to the World Health Organization there is “convincing evidence” that the volunteer corps, which it called the backbone of one of the world’s most successful public health systems, has helped curb many including, dengue and malaria. In campaigns against SARS, they are credited with making Thailand one of the region’s least affected countries.
The Village Health Volunteers scheme has been in place for over 50 years and was established by a Thai civil servant returning from a stint at Harvard University. Eight times as many children died in infancy when the system of volunteers commenced. Thailand now has about 12 deaths per 1,000 births, considerably below most of its neighbours. Life expectancy in Thailand was just 55 years when the volunteer system began in 1962, it is now over 70. Volunteers are respected local residents who serve voluntarily as connectors between the community and the health care providers to promote health. There are about 750,000 volunteers nation-wide, each responsible for 5 to 15 households.
They function as a team at village level. Volunteers get a few perks, including discounts at hospitals and subsidised education for their children going into nursing. The government recently began paying volunteers a monthly stipend of 600 THB. The Village Health Volunteers exemplify the spirit of community service and selfreliance in a society with a strong tradition of caring for family and neighbours. As one volunteer put it – “It’s in the culture,” she said, “we take care of one another.”