Friday, 28 August 2020

Talking Public Health; Circa COVID-19 Lecture Series

 India faces both unique challenges and unprecedented opportunities in the sphere of public health. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the fragility of the public health care systems, urging governments around the world to revisit their public health policies. In August 2020, Socius, Applied Sociology Students Collective of the Department of Sociology and Social Work, organised a lecture series on the Theme ‘Talking Public Health, circa COVID-19.’ The lecture series offered a platform to initiate discussion on a wide array of topics that play a decisive role in shaping the course of public health policies in India.

The first lecture of the series, ‘COVID-19 and Lessons for Public Health Systems’ was organised on the 8th of August. The lecture was delivered by Dr T Sundararaman, Global Coordinator, People’s Health Movement. He discussed the necessity of a paradigm shift in the public health discourse in India. From the origin of the modern public health discourse to the public-private nexus in health service delivery, Dr Sundararaman offered an illuminating lecture, laying a strong foundation for further discussions and debates on public health discourse in India.

The second lecture of the series ‘Decentralization and Community Participation in COVID Control - IKerala Experience’ was conducted on the 17th of August and was delivered by Dr Jayasree A K, Head of the Department of Community Medicine at the Academy of Medical Sciences, Pariyaram, Kerala.

Dr Jayasree extensively discussed decentralised governance and community participation in public health and in the fight against COVID19, with regard to the measures taken by the Government of Kerala to control the spread of the virus. The speaker suggested that decades of investment in public health and a long history of social reform movements rooted in the egalitarian principles of development, social justice, and equality, have paved the way for the successful containment of COVID-19 in Kerala. Dr Jayasree stressed the importance of community participation under the leadership of empowered local governments as one of the most effective strategies in COVID-19 control.

On August 22, the third lecture of the public health lecture series was organised on the topic ‘Reimagining the Urban in the Post COVID India.’ The speaker Dr. Piush Antony is a Social Policy Specialist at UNICEF India. The enlightening lecture offered a new perspective into understanding public health in the post-COVID world. The lecture covered a wide array of topics ranging from the dynamics of "the new normal" to the politics of social distancing.

The final lecture of the series ‘Social Determinants of Health: Towards a Humanitarian Approach to Public Health,’ was delivered on 27th August 2020 by Dr Asima Jena, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Hyderabad. Dr Jena discussed the importance of developing a humanitarian approach towards public health policies in the post-COVID 19 era which requires a broad array of disciplines to inform and influence the totality of their precept and practice to advance global health.

The lecture series brought together public health experts from various fields and has established a platform that encourages more discussions on the importance of a fresh perspective into public health in the post-COVID 19 world.

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Social Sciences: Challenges and Relevance

On the 18th of August, the Department of Sociology and Social work, CHRIST (Deemed to be University), Bengaluru, organised a webinar on Social Sciences: Challenges and Relevance by Prof. Maitrayee Chaudhari, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She discussed the relevance of the Classical Sociologist perspective in understanding social science’s relevance in a modern democratic society. She brings in the philosophy of classical sociologists such as C. Wright Mills’ Sociological Imagination and Peter Berger’s Invitation to Sociology. In doing so, she tried to elucidate the different ways of understanding society.

She begins her talk by questioning one’s choice of selecting subjects at the school and college levels. She quotes C. Wright Mills and says that one’s will is not so personal, instead is governed by society. Society has considered some subjects as sacrosanct over others; she cites her example of how her family, relatives, and neighbourhood negatively reacted to her choice of choosing the field of humanities over science and commerce.

By shedding light on the relevance of social science, Prof. Chaudhuri says that it helps us understand our aspirations and limitations better. It further elucidates how society and history structure one’s identity. She goes on to give relevant examples, for one to understand the connection between social structure and the self. Knowledge of and from the social sciences can help one gain an insight into their social position and the way their identities work with each other.

Prof. Chaudhuri uses the Sociology of Peter Berger, to understand the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, where the society has normalised the migrant labour unrest as ‘typical’ human behaviour. But sociology will tell us that gender, class, and caste are differently impacted even in this “normal” scenario.

In conclusion, she states that sociology and social work produce an understanding of society, and quality data and information help understand it. She shows hope when she mentions the New Education Policy (2020), and how it might give equal status to social science along with other streams.

The talk was followed by a Q&A session, where the participants engaged with the presenter and crucial questions regarding the education policy were discussed and were answered with a constructive conclusion.