The Department of Social Studies of Medicine
Invites you to a seminar with:
Dr. Nancy Leys Stepan
Professor Emeritus in History, Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health
“Utopias and Practical Outcomes: Disease Eradication and its Controversies “
WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 27th, 2013
3647 Peel Street
Don Bates Seminar Room 101
Abstract: The goal of eradicating a disease worldwide by specific public health interventions is a compelling yet historically and conceptually contested idea. Today, the factors that led to ambitious eradication campaigns in the post-World War II period, notably an unbounded faith in science and in internationalism, are if anything stronger today than in the past. Yet the strategy is as yet no more successful; only smallpox among human diseases has been eradicated, an achievement dating back over 30 years. Current eradication campaigns are struggling to reach the zero that the modern concept of eradication requires.
What explains the enduring appeal of a public health strategy whose final goal seems so elusive? Does eradication represent "the ultimate in global equity" and "the definitive outcome of good public health practice", as some recent proponents of eradication claim? What critiques of eradication seem least convincing, and what most? What place should eradication have in contemporary public health?
Nancy Leys Stepan, the author of Eradication: Ridding the World of Diseases Forever? (2011), will speak about some of the historical and conceptual paradoxes surrounding the pursuit of an absolute in public health.