In principle, health care in Laos is free for all Laotians. There is at least one hospital in each province. However, there is a shortage of trained doctors and nurses. Many qualified doctors have left the country during the last few decades. There is also a serious shortage of supplies, equipment, medicine and modern facilities, because of the country's economic problems. Wealthy citizens usually use private health care facilities. Many travel to Thailand for better services.

 More than 30 years of war have affected the health of Laotians and the capacity of their health care system. The bombing of Laos left many people injured or disabled. Others suffer from depression or psychological trauma. Laos does not have a widespread, reliable supply of clean water or a dependable waste disposal system. As a result, diseases such as cholera, typhoid and bilharzia (a disease caused by water-borne parasites) are a constant threat. Droughts that ruin food crops lead to hunger and malnutrition. Humidity and flooding in lowland areas allow mosquitoes, flies and rodents to breed. These pests carry diseases such as malaria.

The Laotian people have always used herbal remedies to treat illness. Many herbs and roots with medicinal properties grow in the forests and valleys of Laos. The juice of a bitter vine called kheua khao hor is used to treat malaria. Another common disease, chickenpox, is treated with extracts from the kok kang pa plant.


Herbs may be made into a drink or rubbed into the skin. People may soak in baths with herbs to cure fevers and insect bites. New mothers use extracts from tong thong roots to help produce milk. They may also roast the leaves of the bai nat tree over hot coals and inhale over the fumes to ease the pains after childbirth. Laotian women have traditionally relied on midwives and female relatives to help with pregnancy and childbirth.
  Did you know?
Although most of the opium that grows in the mountains is raised as a cash crop, villagers use some of it for medicinal purposes, as a painkiller.
Spiritual healing may be used where other remedies have failed. Illnesses are sometimes attributed to the presence of evil spirits. Special tribal rituals to drive out the spirits are common in some villages.

 The Laotian population in general is very young. The average lifespan is 52 years for men and 54 years for women, so there are few elderly people in Laos. Although the birth rate is high, many children die at birth or in infancy.