Authors: Yi-Chen Wang*, National University of Singapore
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Asia
Keywords: liver fluke infection, social-cultural factors, raw attitude, information dissemination, Thailand
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded
Infections with the liver fluke Opisthorchis viverrini (Ov) is a major public health problem in the Southeast Asian Mekong region, through the consumption of raw or undercooked freshwater fish. While more and more people are aware of the associated health risks, consumption of raw fish dishes has not ceased and numerous pockets of the region still report high Ov prevalence. This study examines the roles of social-cultural and structural factors contributing to Ov infection risk. Questionnaire surveys were conducted in four villages in northeastern Thailand. Despite recent Ov infection diagnoses from villagers’ urine and fecal samples, 32.4% of the participants of this study reported that they would continue to consume raw fish dishes, mainly because of the delicious taste and family tradition. Participants have further mentioned that social gathering, convenient to prepare, and affordability as the reasons for consumption. Some male participants have thought that eating raw foods would enable them to gain strength, much like tigers and lions. Such believe underscores that raw fish consumption is culturally linked to masculinity. Although about 70% of the participants have linked Ov infection to cancer, misconceptions of liver fluke life cycle, Ov infection health consequence, and food safety remain. This is likely attributed to the structural factor of multiple levels of information dissemination from government and university medical professionals to local health center officers and villagers. For disease prevention to be most effective, health campaigns must take the influences of masculinity and multi-levels of information dissemination into consideration.