V.30: No. 5-6 May-June 2002 #348-349
Introduction, p. 1
"Preventive and Curative Health in South Asia: An Introduction," Sanjoy Bhattacharya, p. 1
"Interactions between Traditional Medicine and 'Western' Medicine in Sri Lanka," S. N. Arseculeratne, p. 4
"Between Gods/Goddesses/Demons and 'Science': Perceptions of Health and Medicine among Plantation Labourers in Jalpaiguri District, Bengal," Samrat Chaudhury and Nitin Varma, p. 18
"Donors' Dilemmas: Scandinavian Aid to the Indian Family Planning Programme, 1970-80," Sunniva Engh , p. 39
"The Final Inch: The Eradication of Smallpox and Beyond," John F. Wickett, p. 62
"Unmet Needs: Reproductive Health Needs, Sex work and Sex Workers," Geetanjali Gangoli, p. 79
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Introduction by Sanjoy Bhattacharaya
Preventive and Curative Health in South Asia
This special issue arises from some of the proceedings of a conference entitled 'Imperialism, Medicine and South Asia', held at Wolfson College, Cambridge, on the 15th and the 16th of June 2001. This gathering was made possible with generous support received from the Asia Committee of the European Science Foundation, Sheffield Hallam University, UK, and the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine at the University of Oxford, UK.
The five essays presented here are based on a wide range of historical sources. Some of these collections have not been deployed before, while others are analysed in new ways. The articles' authors are, therefore, able to provide us with a variety of fresh perspectives, which would be useful both to academics and health professionals. 'Many of the themes dealt with herein have not received much attention before, and it is thus hoped that the articles that follow will stoke further research on related themes.
The collection is kicked off by a piece by S. Arseculeratne titled 'Interactions between Traditional Medicine and Western Medicine in Sri Lanka'. This looks at the frequently troubled links between western biomedicine and traditional medical systems in Sri Lanka. It also describes and compares official efforts to combine the provision of western and traditional medical systems in the colonial and post-colonial periods, and assesses the possibility of arranging a synthesis of these in the contemporary period.
The next contribution is an article authored jointly by Samrat Chaudhury and Nitin Varma. Titled 'Between GodsIGoddessesl Demons and "Science": Perceptions of Health and Medicine among plantation labourers in Jalpaiguri District, Bengal', this piece attempts to explore the attitudes of tea garden workers towards health issues
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and state-sponsored medical schemes in the Duars region of the Jalpaiguri district (West Bengal state in India). While the trends in the post-independence period are approached from an oral history perspective, the authors also make an effort to examine the colonial context. This helps them to analyse the nature of continuities in medical and public health policy in the region.
The next article, by Sunniva Engh, is titled 'Donors' Dilemmas: Scandinavian aid to the Indian Family Planning Programme, 1970-80', and looks at the complex basis of Swedish and Norwegian government participation in the Indian population control schemes. By deploying a range of hitherto unused historical material, the author shows how deeply this involvement was affected by domestic politics in Scandinavia. This is, of course, a valuable corrective. Most existing studies have persisted in explaining the shifts in funding patterns and the re-adaptation of policy by conditions existing in India. Engh reveals the significance of looking at the Swedish and the Norwegian governments' assessments of the course of the Indian family control programme (including its more pernicious aspects, like enforced sterilisation), and the effects of the resultant debates on the funding of the scheme.
The following piece, titled 'The Final Inch: The eradication of smallpox and beyond', is by John R Wickett. It deals with important aspects of the successful Indian smallpox eradication programme (SEP) of the 1970s, and compares this will the strategies being deployed as part of the current internationally-sponsored global anti-AIDS campaign. Drawing generalisations about the usefulness - and the sustainability - of WHO-funded vertical public health programmes, on the basis of the SEP experiences, Wickett describes the rationale of - and the tensions in - contemporary AIDS control strategies. Wickett's perspectives are refreshing precisely because they are based on his personal involvement in the SEP in India and Africa, which gave him valuable insights into the mode of operation of internationally-funded programmes in developing countries. Of particular interest is his contention that while success in public health campaigns is closely reliant on the quality of local government, the final stage of implementation of a project is ultimately dependant on the dedicated service of a core group of workers. This important point is often ignored in academic assessments of the working of international health programmes.
The final article in this issue is titled 'Unmet needs: Reproductive health needs, sex work and sex workers'. Written by Geetanjali
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Gangoli, it describes the efforts made by the colonial and post-colonial Indian governments to monitor the health of sex workers, as well as the efforts made by official agencies and NGOs, in the 1980s and the 1990s, to improve health standards amongst them. While examining the health consequences of sex work, and making a distinction between the experience of children and women in the profession, Gangoli makes the valuable argument that 'health care seeking behaviour' depends both on social and psychological factors, as well as the quality of facilities made available to any given community.
I would like to end this introductory statement by thanking the Asia Committee of the European Science Foundation for all the support that made this special issue possible.
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