ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Aspects of Social History of MedicineSubscribe to Aspects of Social History of Medicine

'Parasites Lost and Parasites Regained'

In the early 1920s, the Rockefeller Foundation conducted an anti-hookworm campaign in Madras Presidency with the objective of controlling hookworm infection. However, the larger aim was to use it as an entry point for extensive sanitary measures and public health education. Two decades later infection rates remained constant while sanitation made little progress. The common people's beliefs and attitudes were blamed for this. The reality was different. It was the RF's diffused focus and the inconsistencies in its approach coupled with the government's lack of commitment to the programme and public health that determined the campaign's results.

Political Culture of Health in India

This paper provides a historical perspective on the political culture of public health in India. It examines the genesis of the state's commitment to provide for the health of the people, but argues that in that original commitment lay numerous contradictions and fractures that help to explain the state's relative ineffectiveness in the field of public health. It argues that the nationalist movement's initial commitment to the state provision of welfare arose from a complex combination of motives - a concern with democracy and equity as well as concerns about the "quality" and "quantity" of population. The depth of ambition for public health was unmatched by infrastructure and resources; as a result, the state relied heavily on narrowly targeted, techno-centric programmes assisted by foreign aid. The paper also examines the malaria eradication programme as a case study which reveals the limitations and weaknesses of that approach; the ultimate failure of malaria eradication left a huge dent in the state's commitment to public health.

Mal-areas of Health

The urge to define malaria in the third quarter of the 19th century created a lot of conflicting theories and understandings of that disease. However, the practising physicians could accommodate these conflicting explanations as different probable attributes of that mysterious disease rather than necessarily discarding one theory in favour of another. Through the acts of narrating and reporting clinical diagnostic encounters in regularly published and extensively circulated medical journals, these different connotations of malaria acquired a certain currency, not least legitimacy.

Maternal Health in Early Twentieth Century Bombay

Colonial health reports from the mid-19th century onwards recorded alarmingly high rates of maternal and infant mortality in the then Bombay Presidency. This was attributed to the practice of early marriage, the inferior status of women in society and tradition-bound health habits. This article examines the opinions of men and women doctors, civic leaders and philanthropists who were involved in campaigning for better healthcare for expectant mothers and in dealing with the reluctance of Indian women to consult male doctors. They also investigated the health of women mill workers, which led to debates in the Bombay legislative council and ultimately in the passing of the Maternity Benefits Act in 1929.
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