Objectives: Exploring the attitudes and knowledge of household members and health staff in Lao PDR regarding the use of traditional medicine. Background: Along with modern medicine, traditional medicine utilisation is officialty supported in Laos, being part of the cultural heritage and considered useful for this low-income country in relation to the problems with access to modern pharmaceuticats. Methods: The study population comprised 600 households from one lowland (Pakse) and one mountainous (Paksong) district. In a stratified two-stage sampling procedure, household surveys were conducted and focus group discussions (FGD) were performed among health staff and villagers in the same districts. Results: Seventy-seven per cent of the households stated the ever use of traditional medicine including herbal medicines, sauna, massage and acupuncture. The main reason given was perceived efficacy. Traditional medicine was used for both chronic and acute diseases. The FGD revealed the perceived need to have training courses for traditional medicine providers and to have a medicinal garden in the villages. Utilisation was similar in lowland and mountainous districts as welt as in urban and rural areas. Conclusions: The study indicates that traditional medicine is widely used and perceived as effective by a fairly large proportion of Lao people. The findings may form a basis for health sector reforms that are congruent with perceived local needs, e.g. in establishing a strategic plan for the development of the traditional medicine sector in Lao PDR. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.