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Unsocial Medicine: exploring intersections between livestock health epidemiology and local knowledge networks

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  • UserDr Alex Tasker, Embedded Scientist at UK Government International Joint Comparisons Unit; Teaching Fellow in Human Ecology/Health and Environment, Dept of Anthropology, University College London World_link
  • ClockWednesday 04 November 2020, 16:00-17:00
  • HouseLecture Theatre 2, Department of Veterinary Medicine.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Fiona Roby.

Communities across the globe understand health and disease through complex networks of social and cultural connections. Historically, researchers and politicians have often used the rejection of state health systems by those living at the margins of state- and development control as backward and intransient; recent work has challenged this view by showing how many groups navigate rich networks of indigenous and external knowledge outside of formal programming. This seminar presents a case study around pastoralist animal health to explore hidden interactions between indigenous, state, and development health knowledge networks to show how informal interactions and emerging technologies can drive the creation of hybrid forms of health knowledge.

Effective livestock disease monitoring in hard-to-reach or seldom-heard populations continues to challenge epidemiologists across the globe. The marginal position of these communities at the edges of state- and international animal health systems act as both barriers to conventional disease reporting tools and drivers of emerging diseases. Technological progress in diagnostics and data handling have made significant contributions to our understanding of livestock disease processes, however the utility of these tools in marginalised communities most vulnerable to livestock disease are often constrained by ineffective identification and reporting systems. One response from the international community has been the development of Participatory Epidemiological (PE) approaches to establish community-level surveillance. Despite notable successes, many PE projects continue to overlook indigenous disease knowledge systems that can undermine the efficiency of PE. This seminar presents a case study of a semi-nomadic East African community in which veterinary researchers used exploratory Social Network Analysis (SNA) and qualitative interviews to map interactions between an NGO -led PE-type Participatory Disease Surveillance (PDS) programme and a diverse range of indigenous social and cultural knowledge systems. This study identified highly differentiated communities using indigenous, NGO , and hybrid knowledge pathways and networks, with power and access driving choices to engage or subvert formal systems. Analysis of the significant influence from political, economic, and cultural networks shaping the use of PDS can inform PE planning in the region and provide lessons for the use of technology in developing future epidemiological programmes.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminar Programme, Department of Veterinary Medicine series.

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