Building Trust in Medicine is Important
Do you trust the medicine and drugs that you consume when you become sick? How sure are we that those medical interventions do not have side effects which can be avoided?
This is an issue that has been tackled over the years. Prof. Sara Lowes of Bocconi University and Eduardo Montero (PhD Student at Harvard University) have published a paper on this issue.
The two authors explore medical campaigns by French military in Sub-Saharan Africa in their quest to manage tropical diseases.
These campaigns took place between 1920s and 1950s. In Cameroon- present day Gabon, Central Africa Republic, Republic of Congo and Chad- the French medical teams claimed to fight leprosy, Malaria, syphilis and sleeping sickness.
On the other hand, the African who were involved in the medical campaigns reported that they were coerced to take the injections which had great negative effects.
Up to 20% of Africans who received the injection to cure blindness ended up becoming blind, dying or experiencing gangrene. Note also that this was the first time some of these people encountered the western medicine as we know it today.
The fight against sleeping sickness – a diseases caused by tsetse flies- was the largest health investment by the colonial masters (French).
The two researchers conclude their paper that:
The historical medical campaigns provide several important lessons for present-day development policy. First, top-down aid that is implemented poorly and without local consent and involvement can have long lasting unintended consequences. Second, the success of present-day health interventions or policies may depend on the historical experiences of the target populations. Finally, building and maintaining trust in medicine should remain a priority for modern health interventions.
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