Saturday, September 28, 2013

No health without social justice

The framework of social justice goes beyond the confines of justice and even beyond the concept of equal distribution of facilities and resources. It recognizes the inherent inequality of a system which is framed from a perspective which is far removed from people’s natural context. And it identifies itself with a perspective which is in line with people’s existing context and practices. It builds on their strengths and resources because social justice is not a quest for a better tomorrow but is a call for a healthier today.

The dominant discourse on health, views health and healthcare as alien to the body of the people, especially the ‘underclass’ or those who fall ill often, and hence seeks to “provide” its external intervention to the receiver through the mass availability of healthcare facilities and providers. Medical history is replete with stories of how the colonial rulers had to bring the army in to ensure its health campaigns like vaccination and quarantine was successful. It continues even today when local knowledge and holistic practices are discredited, shamed and silenced and a dominant system imposed on all irrespective of its relevance, availability of means to achieve health, or even the dangers of the system. The approach still emanates from the top and pushes its way down to the masses and we all chug along because if we say the emperor has no clothes, we would be forced to stitch new ones. According to my view, the view from the bottom is that the emperor has no clothes and the sooner we acknowledge it the quicker we begin on the path of social justice and health.

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