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Cross-border mobility and social networks: Laotians seeking medical treatment along the Thai border

Abstract : Drawing upon research conducted on cross-border patients living in Laos and seeking care in Thailand, this paper examines the important role played by social networks in patients’ decision-making and on the itineraries they choose to seek treatment on the Thai side of the border. Due to the vastly contrasting situations between the two countries in terms of healthcare supply, and considering Laotians’ increasing demand for high quality health care, a number of them have managed to satisfy their needs by combining cross-border treatment with the use of the healthcare facilities provided by their own country. This study consisted first of household surveys conducted in five border areas (2006-2007) in Laos in order to quantify and map out cross-border healthcare-related travel patterns. Afterwards, interviews were conducted with cross-border patients (55), Laotian and Thai medical doctors (6), Thai social workers (5), and officials working in public institutions (12). While socioeconomic and spatial factors partly explain cross-border mobility, patients’ social networks significantly influence treatment itineraries throughout the decision-making process, including logistical and financial considerations. The social networks existing at different geographical levels (neighbourhood, regional and global) are therefore a powerful analytical tool not only for understanding the emergence of these cross-border movements but also for justifying them in an authoritarian political environment such as Lao PDR’s.
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Submitted on : Thursday, January 7, 2016 - 3:17:20 PM
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Audrey Bochaton. Cross-border mobility and social networks: Laotians seeking medical treatment along the Thai border. Social science & medicine, Elsevier, 2015, pp.364-373. ⟨10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.10.022⟩. ⟨halshs-01252403⟩



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