Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Luke Messac ─ No More to Spend: Neglect and the Construction of Scarcity in Malawi's History of Health Care

Monday, October 29, 2018

12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room, 3rd Floor

Dismal public sector health spending is, in much of the historical and public health literature on Africa, considered a necessary consequence of a low GDP. But is it true that, in the past or the present, poor patients in poor countries are doomed to go without the fruits of modern medicine? The history of Malawi demonstrates how official neglect of health care required political, rhetorical, and even martial campaigns by colonial and post-colonial governments. Rising demand for medical care among African publics compelled governments either to increase spending or offer rationalizations for inaction. Because many of these claims of scarcity persist in global health discourse, the ways in which they were deployed, defended, and (at certain moments) defeated has important implications for health outcomes today.

Africa Initiative

Luke Messac is a physician and a historian. Luke received his BA from Harvard University (Social Studies, 2008), his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania (History and Sociology of Science, 2016), and his MD from the University of Pennsylvania (2018). He is currently a Resident in Emergency Medicine at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. His research focuses on the histories of health policy in southern Africa and the United States.