The changing role of a Vaidya (non-codified traditional doctor) in the community health of Kerala, Southern India: comparison of treatment-seeking behaviours between the Vaidya's patients and community members.The changing role of a Vaidya (non-codified traditional doctor) in the community health of Kerala, Southern India: comparison of treatment-seeking behaviours between the Vaidya's patients and community members.
[Background]: This study aimed at exploring the roles of a Vaidya – an uncodified traditional doctor – in a community in Kerala State, India. Special attention was paid to the characteristics of the Vaidya’s patients in comparison with the treatment-seeking behaviour of the community members. [Methods]: Both qualitative and quantitative data about the Vaidya, 97 of his patients, and 31 community members were gathered via participatory fieldwork and open-ended interviews. [Results]: It was found that the community members seldom consulted the Vaidya who lived in their community; thus, the role of the Vaidya as the community’s primary health care provider had nearly disappeared. Nonetheless, the Vaidya was deeply respected as one of the community’s leaders by its members because of the spiritual and financial support he provided to them. On the other hand, a number of patients visited the Vaidya from outside the village, which implied that the Vaidya played a new role under the changes caused by medical pluralism. Even a codified traditional medicine, Ayurveda, was less popular among the community members. These findings were interesting, because while the traditional Indian medical system has been becoming popular and common in other societies, such as European societies, as an alternative medicine, the traditional medical system was becoming less important in the rural Indian context. [Conclusion]: It is thus concluded that the medical practice has changed depending on its cultural and social contexts, even though its medicinal effects had been proven by scientific survey.