Society for Medical Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
International policy and program documents often refer to medical and public health personnel and their activities as forming systems. For instance, the World Health Organization currently takes its mandate to be the strengthening of health systems, which it defines as ‘consist[ing] of all organizations, people and actions whose primary intent is to promote, restore or maintain health’. In this literature, a country’s health system is split into two ‘sectors’: the public and the private. These sectors are further subdivided based on the purpose of services provided (preventive or curative), their location (primary, secondary or tertiary facilities) and healing practice (for instance, biomedical or traditional). In this paper, I examine how these categories acquire meaning through practices of care in local contexts. Through ethnographic research with care providers treating cases of pediatric neurocysticercosis in north India, I consider the work these categories do for the actors whose actions and positions they purport to define. I use this analysis to argue that the uptake of universal public health categories in everyday interactions hinges on their ability to support the maintenance of particular relations between care providers, patients and care givers.