Public health in Papua New Guinea : medical possibility and social constraint, 1884-1984


Public health in Papua New Guinea : medical possibility and social constraint, 1884-1984

Donald Denoon with Kathleen Dugan and Leslie Marshall

(Cambridge history of medicine / editors, Charles Webster and Charles Rosenberg)

Cambridge University Press, 1989

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Bibliography: p. 140-151

Includes index



This book concerns the development of institutional medicine, medical practice and health care during the initial colonisation and later colonial rule of Papua New Guinea. It discusses the relationship between public health and the medical profession and colonial bureaucracy, and also analyses the profession's social and technical ideas which determined the kinds of health policies and programmes attempted. The first part describes the era of tropical medicine which predominated at the turn of the century and survived until the 1950s. The second part investigates the transformation of tropical medicine by the introduction of new drugs and the curative campaigns of the 1950s and 1960s, and thereafter discusses the emergence of a new medical strategy known as 'primary health care'. This original, comparative study will be of value not only to anthropologists and historians of tropical medicine but also to historians of colonialism and its effects on public health care.


  • Acknowledgements
  • maps of Papua New Guinea
  • Introduction
  • Part I. The Rise and Fall of Tropical Medicine: 1. Pre-colonial health and disease
  • 2. The administration of public health
  • 3. Early colonial medical administration
  • 4. The political economy of health in Papua between the wars
  • 5. The political economy of health in New Guinea between the wars
  • 6. Medical education
  • 7. The Pacific War: the condition of the people
  • Part II. The Rise and Fall of the Great Campaigns: 8. Miracle drugs, new perceptions and the post-war Public Health Department
  • 9. The health campaigns
  • 10. Women and children last
  • 11. Health education
  • 12. A national health system
  • 13. Primary health care
  • 14. The past and the future
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index.

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