Public Health in the Caribbean and Latin America: A past perspective

University of York, 18-19 July 2014‌

Diffusionist models of understanding the histories of medicine and health practices in non-European countries have increasingly been discredited. Instead, scholars now highlight the multi-directional movement of ideas and practices between Europe and other parts of the world, as well as the mutually-constitutive character of imperialism, post-colonial ideologies and development projects. Yet, several gaps remain in the historiography. Relatively scant attention has been paid to the production of medical and scientific practices in Caribbean and Latin American contexts, and how the underpinning knowledge was used to reshape the design and implementation of medical, scientific and public health work; this dynamism in Latin America and the Caribbean also had a far-reaching impact on imperial powers such as Portugal, the US, France and, not least, Britain.

This two-day workshop tries to fill the gap in the scholarship by examining some of the unique public health policies that emerged in the Caribbean and Latin America and which were deeply wedded to local conditions and influenced by negotiations between indigenous elites and the groups they sought to control. The workshop also seeks to better understand the ways in which models of public health organisation and practices were exported wider afield, either through trans-imperial networks or post-Second World War developmental strategies.

The workshop focusses on the following themes:   

  • The control of tuberculosis
  • Questions of infant and maternal health
  • Primary health care, broadly defined

And which engage with one or more of the following questions:

  • The identification of tuberculosis as a public health problem and the measures intended to combat the disease
  • How TB control efforts were imagined, variously, as a national, regional and international problemHow international and multilateral agencies, such as the WHO and UNICEF, got involved in TB control efforts
  • Why was the issue of infant and maternal health advocated as being of national, regional and international significance?
  • What were the core components of infant and maternal healthcare services in different imperial and national contexts?
  • How were experiments with social medicine interconnected with a rise in ideologies relating to the need for social security nets and universal health care?
  • How were concepts of universal healthcare incorporated into political systems, both imperial and national?
  • What roles did international health organisations play in advocating the need for primary health care?
  • How were experiments in primary healthcare in Latin America and the Caribbean exported wider afield?
  • What efforts were made by global funding agencies, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, to reshape structures of primary healthcare?
  • How did external pressures, from funding agencies and new political alliances, cause an expansion of public-private partnerships in health-care  delivery, and to what effect?

To attend the conference, please download and complete the registration form. Completed forms should be sent to Dr. Henrice Altink (henrice.altink@york.ac.uk).

Public Health Conference registration form (MS Word  , 25kb)