Chean Rithy Men

Chean Rithy Men

University of Rhode Island

Cultural Anthropology


Mentor: Raelene Shippee-Rice - Associate Professor of Nursing

Ethnographic Study of Cambodian Health Care and Ethnomedicine

The purpose of this study was to explore the cultural knowledge of Cambodian health care beliefs and their ethnomedicine as practiced and used in the context of Western biomedicine. This study sheds light on the cultural reasons as to why the members of Cambodian population in Providence, RI, in making decision as to continue to practice and utilize their traditional medicine. This study also focused on the factors that influence the Cambodians' acceptance or rejection of Western biomedicine.

Six informants were selected for participant in open-ended, in-depth interviews: a medicine man(Kruu), a midwife (Chmop), and four others, who are currently using Khmer medicine for their illnesses. The principle approach for this study is ethnography. Qualitative analysis consisted of translation, transcription, in-depth coding, and thematic description of collected data.

The results indicate that the traditional belief system are profoundly imbedded in their perception of health, illness, and treatment. Cambodians that participated in this study still use and practice their traditional medicine. However, as they have expressed, Khmer medicine has weaken in this country because of the lack of availability of medicinal plants, because they are too expensive, there is less contact among the people, and finally because there is conflict of cultural differences within main stream society. The results also illustrated that Cambodians are more willing to accept and first seek out Western biomedicine. On the other hand, when Western medicine fail in treating their illness the Cambodians return to their traditional medicine for treatment. However, they never rejected Western medicine completely, but incorporated both.

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