Advancing Health in Developing Countries: The Role of Social Research

Advancing Health in Developing Countries: The Role of Social Research

Advancing Health in Developing Countries: The Role of Social Research

Advancing Health in Developing Countries: The Role of Social Research

Synopsis

What is the relationship between social science research and public health policy, particularly in the developing world? This question is at the heart of this volume drawn from Rockefeller Foundation-sponsored conferences at Harvard University. The collection examines the theoretical impact of social science research as well as specific case studies where social science research has been successfully applied to public health issues--such as the anti-smoking movement in the U.S.; measures to prevent and control HIV infection in the U.K., Sweden, and the U.S.; anti-malaria measures; and the application of dietary management and lot quality assurance sampling to public health issues in Peru.

Excerpt

Among the great achievements of humankind in the twentieth century have been the enormous improvements in health worldwide. The pace and character of these health gains, however, exhibit marked variability between nations and communities, reflecting global disparities in human achievement. Despite these inequities, the overall pattern has been truly remarkable. Few would have predicted at the beginning of this century that average life spans would be approaching 80 years in many economically advanced societies and that the gap between developing and industrialized countries would be narrowing as we approach the close of the century.

What has accounted for these phenomenal achievements? Many theories have been advanced -- from the marvels of modern medical technology to fundamental social and economic developments that have provided adequate food, shelter, clothing, and effective health care. A common basis for these advances is the enormous explosion of knowledge enabling humankind to better control the environment. This knowledge, generated by a human process called research, has provided the underlying basis of technology development and socioeconomic growth that have fueled the acceleration of health improvement.

Although it is a virtual certainty that the production of knowledge has enabled humankind to better control the environment and reduce the threat of unnecessary illness and premature death, the mechanisms through which health research links to effective health action are, at best, incompletely understood. In the natural and life sciences, the accepted paradigm is of laboratory developments leading to technologies for field applications that are then disseminated through mass-scale so-

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