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October 2021

Sante. 1998 Nov-Dec; 8(6): 411-6.

[Epidemics and colonial medicine in West Africa]

Becker C, Collignon R.

CNRS/ORSTOM, Dakar-Fann, Sénégal.

We studied colonial medical practices and health policies in West Africa, which has faced endemics and epidemics that have affected entire societies. We found that attempts to centralize the organization of colonial medicine, which began in the late 19th Century, were limited until the end of World War I. Research and control programs expanded after 1920, concentrating on epidemics, but largely ignoring many major health problems, such as measles, whooping cough and malnutrition, the importance of which were not recognized until after World War II. This appraisal of colonial medicine highlights the difficulties of introducing modern medicine and its ideas into African societies. There have been various social reactions, resulting in the current duality in which traditional and modern medicine coexist.

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