“Phra Sangkha” not only plays a role in inheriting Buddhism but also contributes to the development of learning in morality, ethics, and social development, which will expand to the development of community health. However, the monks themselves face health problems, especially chronic non-communicable diseases caused by their own risky behavior or lack of knowledge and understanding of the people’s merit-making practices.
Currently, many sectors have started to pay more attention to the health of monks, especially in accessing health services. In the past, there may have been limitations in various aspects, but with the integration and use of technology, the solution to this problem is moving forward to the next level.
The Coverage had a conversation with Associate Professor Dr. Arunotai Siriussawakul, Deputy Head of the Research Unit for Health Policy Promotion, Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, who spoke about the integration of technology to create health care results for monks, along with providing knowledge to the public on an interesting platform that will be available for use soon.
It is not surprising if Thai monks are afflicted with diseases. Associate Professor Dr. Arunotai recounted that the health research of monks started with the project “Bangkok Noi Model: Good health begins at your fingertips”. This project was carried out by Siriraj Hospital to conduct research and take care of monks in the Bangkok Noi community, where there are a total of 32 temples with approximately 500 monks and nuns, excluding novices. The research was conducted in conjunction with the healthcare of the monks.
However, before starting the research, it was found that there was a lot of information about the health of monks that had come to the attention of the public. Most of them stated that Thai monks are afflicted with diseases or illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and so on. Although these reports and data have been occurring for a long time, it may cause some people to be skeptical and not surprised. What is interesting is that the various illnesses of the monks are becoming more prevalent.
Associate Professor Dr. Arunotai said that when she saw the problem, a temporary system was set up as a program to be tested with monks in the Bangkok Noi area, following the “Bangkok Noi Model: Good health begins at your fingertips” project. More than 500 monks were asked to participate in a health check-up or self-examination before expanding the results to surrounding areas in the vicinity of Siriraj Hospital, including Bang Phlat, Bangkok Yai, and Taling Chan districts. The research was approved and supported by the Sangha and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.
Develop an app for monks and the general public. Dr. Arunothai explains that when the research team thought about a technological system to help improve the health of monks, in today’s world where people are familiar with technology and the online world, and are interested in health, it was observed that health data is recorded in various applications that store personal data specifically, and work is integrated between government and private organizations. In the private sector, it is interesting to develop products or applications that are suitable for users, because they will understand the user’s needs better than academic institutions.
Therefore, an app was developed with the collaboration of experts in using technology to promote health from Dietz.asia. This app was created for monks and was tested by sending notifications through the app to remind monks to receive their annual health check-up. After the health check-up, the results are sent directly to the app, so that the monks, who are the users, can see their own health data, along with appropriate advice for taking care of their health, which is tailored specifically for monks. This is a way of providing knowledge from the data set that is already available at Siriraj Hospital, to enable monks to take care of their health like the general public.
“In the future, various features or functions of the monks may be added, such as a health check-up system that will notify once a year, as well as the development of inputting information on medication use or each monk’s medical conditions. When they go to see a doctor, the latest updated information will be available for the doctor to treat correctly and continuously,” said Dr. Arunothai.
At the same time, the aforementioned app also has a feature for the public that will have reliable data from Siriraj Hospital. The public will receive information on how to offer healthy food to the monks, as well as taking care of the monks in the community appropriately according to medical recommendations and in accordance with the disciplinary principles of society.
The important reason why the public needs to obtain information through this app is that the monks have many limitations in terms of health care, such as exercise and diet. If there is information in this area that enters the features for the public, they will receive information on how to take care of the monks appropriately. However, at present, the app is still in the testing phase and does not have an official name. It is expected to be launched for the entire country to see in February 2023.
Dr. Arunothai added that the target of this app is over 200,000 monks nationwide, especially the new generation of monks and monks who will come to work in the future to preserve Buddhism. At the same time, they will know how to take care of their own health, which is crucial for the health of the monks and the religion as a whole.”