Science, Public Health and Nation-Building in Soekarno-Era Indonesia
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Date of Publication: 01/07/2017
In 1949, the newly-independent Indonesia inherited a health system that was devastated by three-and-a-half years of Japanese occupation and four years of revolutionary struggle against the Dutch. Additionally, the country had to cope with the resurgence of epidemic and endemic diseases. The Ministry of Health had initiated a number of symbolic public health initiatives – both during the Indonesian Revolution (1945 to 1949) and the early 1950s – resulting in a noticeable decline of mortality. These initiatives fuelled the newly-independent nation’s confidence because they demonstrated to the international community that Indonesia was capable of standing on its own feet. Unfortunately, by the mid-1950s, Indonesia’s public health program faltered due to a constellation of factors attributed to the political tensions between Java and the Outer Islands, administrative problems, corruption, and rampant inflation. The optimism that characterised the early years of independence gave way to despair. The Soekarno era could, therefore, be interpreted as the era of bold plans but unfulfilled aspirations in Indonesian public health. Based on extensive archival research and a close reading of Indonesian primary sources, this book provides a nuanced account of the inner tensions in Indonesian public health during the twentieth century – between a narrow biomedical approach that emphasised disease eradication, and a holistic approach that linked public health to practical concerns of nation-building.