Article ID: CBB556480303

The South Asian Origins of the Global Network to Eradicate Blindness: WHO, NGOs, and Decentralization (2018)


The global network to eradicate blindness emerged out of the work of Western and South Asian professionals to eradicate smallpox which was endemic in South Asia. The history of the emergence of the global network to eradicate blindness demonstrates a shift from vertical command and control public health programs directed by the WHO, to the decentralized public health services originating in non-profit, non-governmental organizations and coordinated by the WHO. The WHO constitution started with a federal regionalist structure that encouraged collaboration and coordination with NGOs. In South Asia in particular, epidemiologists and general medical practitioners moved from eradicating smallpox through the WHO to creating their own domestic and international NGOs based in various countries with a mission to control blindness in South Asia and Africa. In 1975, pushed by the WHO Director General, these new NGOs in turn joined with individual ophthalmologists and existing blind member associations to form the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. Thus, the WHO was shaped by, and shaping, international NGOs such as the IAPB. The IAPB pushed for the formation of the WHO Prevention of Blindness program. This was the earliest example of how the IAPB facilitates bottom-up agenda-setting in the WHO. In 1980, when the WHO officially closed the smallpox program, the Prevention of Blindness program first received independent funding. Presently, the IAPB acts as a decentralized arm of the WHO.

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Authors & Contributors
Sivaramakrishnan, Kavita
Phillips, Gordon
Strong, Beret E.
Chess, Simone
Sykes, Ingrid
Petralia, Maria Cristina
Medical History
Medicina Historica
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
History and Technology
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Palgrave Macmillan
University of London, Royal Holloway College (United Kingdom
Florida State University
Harvard University Press
Public health
Disabilities; disability; accessibility
Medicine and society
Thygeson, Phillips
Milton, John
Swail, James
Rosenberg, Charles E.
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
18th century
20th century, early
15th century
South Asia
Great Britain
New Zealand
National Health Service (Great Britain)

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