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Accepted Paper:

Lessons on Truth from Public Health Communication Research in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan  


Sahil Warsi

Paper long abstract:

Ethnographic and historical research on health and healing in Central Asia and among Central Asian migrants illustrates the complex and contingent processes affecting health-seeking behaviors and understandings of illness in the region (An et al 2020; Cieślewska 2020, 2021; Zarcone & Hobart 2016). This growing literature examines influences on service provision, individual choice, and medical pluralism, within a national or regional context, highlighting the fraught social landscapes within which individuals access biomedical and alternative healing practices. In this context, it becomes difficult to neatly delineate distinctions between binary orientations toward health, e.g. state/non-state, religious/secular, etc.

This paper depicts the epistemologically complex context within which citizens and policy makers make heath decisions, by drawing on interviews and observations conducted as an applied health researcher supporting the Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan ministries of health in understanding public attitudes toward new vaccine introduction. While both countries continue to enjoy historically high vaccination rates, increasing vaccine hesitancy is seen by policy makers and others as related to issues such as lack of social development or religious revivalism. Examining moments in which individuals consider how and why vaccine decisions are made by them or others, this paper suggests individuals navigate an uncertain field of overlapping ‘truths’ about health and health behaviors that inform their present. Considering experiences in the US and the UK, one might see this situation as not unique to Central Asia, but indicative of a contemporary global situation.

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