Health, Culture & Society

Anne V. Reeler

Money and friendship, Modes of empowerment in Thai health care.

Amsterdam: Spinhuis, 1996
ISBN 90-5589-076-6

In the discourse on primary health care in developing countries, the term ‘empowerment’ is laden with positive value. It refers to the endowment of local people with the capacity to solve their health problems. What Anne Reeler makes clear in this book is that the common use of the term empowerment involves a hidden assumption: that planners or other outsiers empower people to find solutions that are reasonable in terms of the planners’ norms.

This book describes how people actually try to empower themselves in rural and urban situations in northeast Thailand. It goes beyond simple relativism by showing how structural conditions frame people’s health seeking practices. It also contributes to the discussion abou the extent to which health workers and planners should ‘compromise’ on biomedical standards and ideals in order to allow people to participate in their own health care in ways they find meaningful.

Anne V. Reeler, PhD, is an anthropologist and currently working with the World Health Organization in Geneva.