The biomedical disease model that dominates much of public health theory and practice is missing the important connection people make between their bodies and their everyday life worlds. In many parts of the world, health is experienced and embodied in the emotional, mental, spiritual, physical and social, and political-economic worlds people inhabit. Chinthar roge (worry illness) as expressed by the impoverished living in Dhaka slum settlements, humanises the medical domain by paying attention to people, not just disease specific worlds to which human beings peripherally belong. For residents, life is one of exhausting and relentless uncertainty, dealing with endemic poverty, erratic jobs, insecurity and crime, precarious living conditions, unstable relationships and networks. Basic services, such as water, education and electricity services remain limited or inaccessible, or they pay high costs for access. Housing is insecure and evictions are routine in the lives of informal settlers. Their very existence is one of continual stress and fragility. Chinthar roge clearly highlights the limits of medicine as most residents lives are situated between hope, fear, anxiety and chronic deprivations. Chinthar rogeis not an illness borne per say, but to them akin to a way of life illness, it is their core being which embodies this everyday pain, worry and suffering and the body then becomes a form of truth telling, and the medicalisation of this illness speaks of the unspeakable of their existence. We need to recognise that health is as much mental, emotional, spiritual as it is physical, and directly impacted by the social, economic and political conditions that people inhabit. Unless we own up to the fundamental reality of the illness of poverty, we will continue to produce short-term band-aid solutions, with little improvement in the lives of the most disadvantaged.
Speaker Bio Sabina Faiz Rashid, PhD, is Dean & Professor at BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University. She received her training in Medical Anthropology from The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. She has been working in Bangladesh since 1993 and her areas of interest and expertise are qualitative and ethnographic research. Her research focuses on gender, reproductive and sexual health, sexuality and the emotional well-being of adolescents, women, men and marginalized populations. A significant portion of her research has focused on informal slum settlements. She is interested in how structural and social inequalities create greater vulnerability for the poorest and impact on their ability to realize their fundamental health and human rights. She has been involved in research for over 20 years and is actively engaged in translating knowledge into action at the grassroots and national level and is a member of several national and international policy and advocacy committees. At the School, she founded the Centre of Gender and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in 2008 and co-founded the Centre on Urban Equity and Health in 2013, focusing on generating evidence, capacity building/training and influencing policy.
Established in 2013, the Subir & Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies at UC Berkeley champions the study of Bangladeshs cultures, peoples and history. The first of its kind in the US, the Centers mission is to create an innovative model combining research, scholarships, the promotion of art and culture, and the building of ties between institutions in Bangladesh and the University of California.