ERC Advanced Grant Awarded to J.-P. Gaudillière

From International to Global: Knowledge, Diseases, and the Postwar Government of Health (GLOBHEALTH)

Jean-Paul Gaudillière, Director of the Center for Research on Medicine, Science, Health and Society (Cermes3) in Paris and a member of the PharmAsia Network, has received an ERC Advanced Grant to study the rise and implications of global health.

This five-year (2014-2018), 2.5 million Euros project titled “From International to Global: Knowledge, Diseases, and the Postwar Government of Health” (GLOBHEALTH) aims at a socio-historical study of the transition between the two regimes of knowledge and action, which have characterized the government of health after World War II: the regime of international public health, dominating during the first decades of the postwar era, which was centered on eradication policies, nation-states and international UN organizations; the present regime of global health, which emerged in the 1980s and is centered on risk management and chronic diseases, market-driven regulations, and private-public alliances.

The project seeks to understand this transition in terms of globalization processes, looking at the making of knowledge, the production and commercialization of health goods, the implementation of public health programs, and routine medical work. It will focus on four fields of investigations: tuberculosis, mental health, medical genetics and traditional medicine in order to understand how categories, standardized treatment regimens, industrial products, management tools or specific specialties have become elements in the global government of health. The project associates historical and anthropological investigations of practices in both international and local sites with strong interests in the changing roles of WHO and the developments taking place in non-Western countries, India in the first place.

Of direct concern to the PharmAsia Network is the traditional medicine axis of this ERC project, titled “Traditional Herbal Therapeutic Preparations: Globalizing Alternative Industrial Products”. From the late 1970s onward, WHO, nation-states like China and India as well as local firms and practitioners of non-western medicines have sought to put the question of the making, evaluation and uses of herbal preparations on the agenda of international health. In 2010, this seems to be a huge success: bio-prospection and ethno-botanical surveys in collaboration with industry flourish; the protection of traditional knowledge is an object of international negotiations; the markets for mass-produced herbal medicines link Europe, the United States, Asia and Latin America; they are subjects to international regulations for production, registration and quality control; they are elements in heterogeneous treatment strategies targeting chronic disorders juxtaposing biomedical and so-called alternative and complementary therapies.

Coordinated with the help of PharmAsia founding member Laurent Pordié (CNRS-Cermes3, Paris), this segment of the project will explore this dual industrialization and globalization, taking India and China as case studies. Here the focus will be placed on the relations between: a) multilateral agencies, the state and the private sector; b) apparently incommensurable systems of medical knowledge. These questions will be approached through three intertwined sets of practices: therapeutic evaluation, international and national market regulation, public health policies and integration.