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Global Priorities and Local Realities: The Case of Skilled Delivery in Ethiopia

Wednesday, February 26, 2020
10:45am – 12:15pm

Storrs Campus
Manchester 117

Dissertation Proposal Defense for Kristen Kirksey

The global health agenda and associated recommendations have historically been set by UN agencies, in coordination with the World Bank, national governments in the Global North, NGOs, and public-private partnerships. Yet meanings of health and methods of care emerge locally, vary across time and place, and reflect the understandings, traditions, and resources of local people. Since the late 1980s, maternal health has been at the forefront of global health efforts, and skilled delivery (delivering babies at a formal healthcare institution under the care of a doctor or midwife) has been a key indicator. The emergence of skilled delivery as an indicator reflects the neoliberal shift in global health towards dichotomous understandings of care, vertical interventions with high “returns on investment”, and quantitatively measurable progress. These approaches are removed from local systems of meaning, and ignore the complex global power relations that ultimately impact maternal health. In this study, I will use the case of skilled delivery in Dangila, Ethiopia to understand the variation between global health recommendations and daily realities of local people. This study asks: What local pressures and constraints impact health care decision-making? How do global recommendations account for these local realities? This study will utilize interviews and document analysis to build upon 6 months of preliminary ethnographic research in Ethiopia. Interviews will explore interactions within health clinics, workforce and economic constraints, collective decision-making, and local norms and practices around health, while document analysis will provide critical historical context and allow me to trace how global health priorities cascade to the national, district and village levels. While critical development will guide my theoretical approach, I will also bring together literatures from medical sociology and global health.

Major Advisor - Dr. Elizabeth Holzer


Elizabeth Holzer

Sociology Department (primary), College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, UConn Master Calendar

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