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Home » Did you know? The Khmer Empire had the “first” healthcare system in the world.

Did you know? The Khmer Empire had the “first” healthcare system in the world.

by Surya Narayan
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The Khmer Empire, the first in the world to develop a functional healthcare system, was governed by its own laws.

This healthcare system was built under King Jayavarman VII at the end of the 12th century.

With roughly 100 employees total, each hospital the Khmer Empire established had a proper management system. The hospital also included a director as well as other staff members like physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and medical assistants.

The public welfare initiative of Jayavarman VII was especially remarkable. In Cambodia, medical knowledge has a long history, but what can be considered state-sponsored healthcare, generously funded by royal donations, doesn’t seem to have existed until the 12th century.

These hospitals provided medical care that was more similar to “modern” medicine, in addition to ritual and spiritual healthcare. 

Two doctors, two apothecaries, eight nurses, and six helpers were among the many medical staff who worked in each hospital, along with achar, or priests. 

The staff also included servants, cooks, and rice makers. Usually, by taking the patient’s pulse, the medical team used to offer diagnostic tests.

Additionally, the hospitals gave prescriptions for medications like honey, butter, oil, and molasses. It is highly possible that a significant portion of the healthcare provided at Angkor was provided through medical alchemy.

A gold cauldron, mercury sulfide, and other items that might have been used in alchemy are listed in an inscription at the “Ta Prohm” temple.

As a Buddhist, Jayavarman VII was aware that his compassion for the people’s physical and mental health would result in significant karmic benefits for both himself and his kingdom.

The first organized healthcare system in the world existed in the Khmer Empire, and this is serving as a source of excitement and pride for Cambodians, and is motivating the country’s youth, particularly those studying science, history, and archaeology.

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