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Gender, Labor, And Wellbeing In The Medical Tourist Industry In Thailand

Project Objectives

The proposed pilot research project builds on an interdisciplinary set of research skills to investigate gender, labor, and the wellbeing of women workers who work in the burgeoning medical tourist complex in Thailand. With state and business investments in %u201Cmedical tourism,%u201D foreigner consumption of health care in Thailand has grown markedly over the 2000s. Medical tourism is subsidized by low-cost labor, which includes a large portion of women workers. This project investigates the contradictions between national investments in public health and medical tourism by investigating the health experiences of low-wage women workers whose labor supports the medical-tourism complex (e.g., sanitation or food service workers). Using qualitative research methods drawn from clinical, social science, and humanities approaches, this project investigates two dimensions of gender and health: first, the mostly invisible, gendered labor that enables the achievement of international standards of cleanliness and security essential for hospitals in the global south to recruit foreign patients; and second, the health conditions, experiences, and interpretations of those workers themselves. What are hospital workers’ own health conditions and where and how do they secure health care? Does exposure to elite elective medicine affect Thai workers’ sense of their own medical needs? How do they navigate a two-tiered system as workers and patients? A DGHI grant will underwrite: research design and pilot research; establishing affiliation with Mahidol University; possible publications; and preparation of external grant applications.



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