Anthropological Analysis

Recall the following chart from the News Analysis section that shows the local and foreign use and effects of social media on efforts to eradicate polio from Pakistan.

While foreign use of social media and photoblogs often blames Pakistani culture and create false optimism to increase donor funding, Closser claims the hinderances to full eradication are located within the Polio Eradication Initiate itself and that eradication in Pakistan will not be realized until these realities are addressed. She highlights the inadequate compensation given to Pakistani health workers, the complicated role of foreign consultants (which she herself experienced repeatedly), and the troublesome dynamics of Pakistan’s district-level health systems.

The news coverage, both local and international, creates a positive image of a polio-free Pakistan that is well within reach. The Initiative is portrayed as a body able to access Pakistan’s mobile society with international funding and local participation.

The following questions are meant to spark dialogue and critical thinking:

  • There are two major approaches to global health right now: structural approaches (ie. eradicating poverty as the way to improve global health) and eradication initiatives (such as was used for smallpox and what is currently being used for polio). What are the strengths and drawbacks of eradication campaigns and structural approaches to improving global health?
    • Follow up questions: Whose responsibility is it to decide which approach to use? Who should carry out interventions? Who should evaluate interventions?
  • For those employed at any level in the field of improving global health, what are the risks of blaming structural inequalities for health inequities? Return to structural violence, the legacy of colonialism, and the current distribution of global power. What do individuals risk personally, politically, financially, professionally, etc. if they choose to blame structural inequalities instead of local issues for poor health? 
    • Follow up questions: Why do we see so many organizations aimed at putting bandaids on situations instead of tackling larger structural issues? What would a world with changed structures look like to you?
  • Eradication officials who are at the top of the campaign often blame Pakistani culture for the failure to eradicate polio. For example, they blame parents for not wanting their kids to be vaccinated, corruption, and the nomadic lifestyle of many Pakistani communities for continued transmission or polio. Svea Closser, however, found that parents did want their kids vaccinated and there were no cultural barriers to eradication. Instead, she proposes that all limiting factors come from the eradication campaign itself in the form of limited compensation to workers as well as limited human resources and the resulting corruption. Why might eradication officials blame Pakistani culture for the continued spread of polio?
  • The world is very close to eradicating polio. What do you think the next steps should be in the fight against polio?