Balneology and health tourism

Authored by: Melanie Kay Smith , László Puczkó

The Routledge Handbook of Health Tourism

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138909830
eBook ISBN: 9781315693774
Adobe ISBN: 9781317437505


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The use of water as a form of therapy has existed for thousands of years and was often connected to religious and spiritual traditions too. The Romans and Greeks were perhaps the first civilisations to emphasise the importance of cleanliness for health and sanitation and this tradition has continued ever since, especially in Europe. The Romans already differentiated baths for leisure or prevention (i.e. thermae) and bathing establishments for healing or medical purposes (i.e. balnea). Although there were times when less than sanitary conditions prevailed (e.g. medieval times), water of all kinds has for centuries been recognised as being essential for maintaining a healthy body. Indeed, in many countries, especially in Europe, water-based therapies are accepted as a legitimate form of medicine where they are supervised and supported by governments and can be a reimbursable medical expense. Although some countries do not recognise such therapies as medicine and financial support is slowly decreasing in certain countries, water still plays a central role in the healthcare and health tourism sectors. Countries regulate differently how thermal, mineral or healing waters are defined in terms of temperature of the water at source (e.g. 30 or 32°C) and the minimum expected mineral content (e.g. 1,000 mg/l). The medical quality of the hot springs has to be tested by rigorous clinical trials and in every country such processes and consequently the accreditation is undertaken by government bodies.

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