IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Public health policy paradoxes: science and politics in the Rockefeller Foundation's hookworm campaign in Mexico in the 1920s

Listed author(s):
  • Birn, Anne-Emanuelle
  • Solórzano, Armando
Registered author(s):

    The origins of US international health endeavors are intertwined with the Progressive Era's faith in science as arbiter of humankind's secular problems. No agency better exemplifies the period's confidence in science than the Rockefeller Foundation's International Health Board (IHB), which set out to export the new public health theory and practice around the world. An examination of the IHB's hookworm program in Mexico in the 1920s demonstrates that, notwithstanding the Rockefeller Foundation's (RF) self-conscious commitment to scientific neutrality, its programs continuously engaged political criteria, exhibiting the competition, coexistence, and inseparability of the worlds of science, politics, and international health policy. Analysis of the program's quotidian decisions and larger strategies further reveals the protean quality of RF science-politics, which enabled responses to parochial and broadly-conceived needs at multiple levels. In the focus on hookworm, the selection of campaign sites, hookworm diagnosis methods, treatment procedures, definition of cure, and the assignment of responsibility for prevention, scientific and political considerations were inextricably bound. The science-politics paradox was molded by the hookworm program's constituencies in Mexico, including political leaders, health bureaucrats, physicians, business interests, public health workers, peasants, and Rockefeller officers. The multiple, often contradictory, roles of the RF's hookworm campaign are characteristic of the policy paradoxes that emerge when science is summoned to drive policy. In Mexico the campaign served as a policy cauldron through which new knowledge could be demonstrated applicable to social and political problems on many levels. The repeated pledge of scientific neutrality belied the hookworm program's inherent aim of persuading government officials, the medical community, business interests, and the populace of the value of investing in public health as a means to improve social conditions, further a medical model of health and sickness, increase economic productivity, and promote good relations between the US and Mexico.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277-9536(99)00160-4
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 49 (1999)
    Issue (Month): 9 (November)
    Pages: 1197-1213

    as
    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:49:y:1999:i:9:p:1197-1213
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/journaldescription.cws_home/315/description#description

    Order Information: Postal: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/supportfaq.cws_home/regional
    Web: http://www.elsevier.com/orderme/journalorderform.cws_home/315/journalorderform1/orderooc/id=654&ref=654_01_ooc_1&version=01

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:49:y:1999:i:9:p:1197-1213. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.