Theses Doctoral

Mobile Health Teams, Decolonization, and the Eradication Era in Cameroon, 1945-1970

Runcie, Sarah Cook

This dissertation examines the intersecting changes of African decolonization and the post-World War II internationalization of public health by showing how Cameroonian and French health officials shaped global health programs on the ground in the 1950s and 60s. I approach this topic through the lens of two tightly interwoven developments in Cameroon: the history of colonial mobile health teams created by French military doctors and the advent of postwar global disease eradication campaigns. While colonial medicine and international health are typically treated as distinct historical subjects, I argue that global disease eradication programs in this period in Cameroon relied entirely on colonial mobile health teams and their reformulation after independence as a basis of infrastructure, personnel and knowledge. I specifically assert that Cameroonian and French health officials positioned mobile health teams as cornerstones of national health policy and regional health coordination in Central Africa and, in turn, as the basis for operations of attempted global disease eradication programs within Cameroon. As Cameroonian, French and international health officials negotiated the work of the mobile health teams through decolonization and the first decade of the independence, they were moreover charting new structures of authority and control over medicine and public health between the global and the local, and forging an international politics of public health rooted in the particular tensions of decolonization in the country. My project thus demonstrates how Africans charted new models for public health through decolonization, models that reflected both the deeply enduring impact of empire and a new post-colonial politics.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Mann, Gregory
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 6, 2017