Making Health Public

Conference Social Sciences & Medical Innovation 2017

This conference is the third international event organised as a collaborative endeavor between Maastricht University (the Netherlands), and Tomsk State University (the Russian Federation), with participation of Siberian State Medical University (the Russian Federation) and European University at Saint-Petersburg (the Russian Federation).

This year the conference examines the complexities of making health public by engaging the perspectives of the social sciences, including science and technology studies (STS), medical anthropology, sociology and history.

Furthermore, it is meant to serve as a platform to facilitate dialogue between social and biomedical scientists, public health professionals and policy makers, and for engagement between scholars and practitioners working in the field of health innovations in the post-Soviet region and globally. The conference considers public health-related innovations on different levels (from the community level to national programmes and global efforts) and of different kinds (conceptual, organisational, political).

The innovations to be addressed include approaches to combat antibiotic resistance and public health programmes for parasitic disease control in remote areas, food fortification programmes to address nutrient deficiencies, technologies to assist people with poor eye sight, health measurement and assessment tools, genetic testing, new ways of organising and governing health care and the use of media to improve mental health after traumatic events.

Conference theme

The conference aims to explore how health is, and can be, made public. What exactly does the ‘public’ stand for in public health?

Public refers to collectives and solidarities on a local, national and global scale; but how are they made, maintained and legitimized amidst diversity of the globalizing world?

Public also refers to the re – sponsibilities of public institutions for health, and engagement of these institutions with people’s concerns. However, during the last decades it has become clear that there are often big gaps between institution – al perspectives and the perspectives of communities and citizens on health and ways to improve it.

International debates about HIV preven – tion have been an eye-opener in this respect. Many public health bod – ies tend to work in a top down manner and do not attune well to local practices, needs and perspectives.

One often wonders, where the publics of public health are. Does the development of evidence-based public policies improve the quality of public health programs, or does it increase the gap with everyday practices? What counts as relevant ev – idence? Which kinds of knowledge shape public health programmes and how is this knowledge developed?

The rise of big data poses the question of how to relate statistical risk technologies to narratives and everyday life notions of risk, illness, responsibility, and a good life. Is it necessary to make public health more participatory and more ‘public’ to make it more effective, and if so, how to do that?

Which roles do in – novations, whether, conceptual, technical or social, play in this regard and how can they contribute into ‘making health public’? How do me – dia construct health as a public issue, and how can media – through encouraging literacy, storytelling, and entertainment – contribute to empowering publics?

Social sciences play a central role in analysing public health innova – tions’ dynamics and for understanding the corresponding challenges. This conference examines the complexities of making health public by engaging the perspectives of the social sciences, including science and technology studies (STS), medical anthropology, sociology and histo – ry.

Furthermore, it is meant to serve as a platform to facilitate dialogue between social and biomedical scientists, public health professionals and policy makers, and for engagement between scholars and prac – titioners working in the field of health innovations in the post-Soviet region and globally.

The conference considers public health-related innovations on different levels (from the community level to national programmes and global efforts) and of different kinds (conceptual, or – ganisational, political).