From IT to HIV: Private and Public Knowledge and Health Related Behaviour in the 21st Century

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Knowledge and information are the key pedestals of today's technocratic society and the main driving force in development across all fields. Who decides which knowledge is "relevant"? What implications does this have for knowledge sharing and access to resources, including health? Power, Knowledge and health are the three focal points of discussion in this paper.

Who has power often determines who controls knowledge, which in turn is the first step in behaviour change, including health related behaviour. Social capital plays a crucial role in determining the framework of hegemonic relations in which ‘private knowledge’ is circulated. This then entails that the inequalities in society are to a large extent determined by the ownership and circulation of knowledge.

Every "community" will have a set of beliefs, social customs and ideas that are normalized due to practice. This “lay knowledge” influences key ideas and attitudes that influence health related conceptions and behaviour. Hence “expert knowledge” from outsiders appears alien and unacceptable to the community and it fails to have the desired impact. This explains why having knowledge or information doesn't always transform into healthy behaviour. Besides, health experts might have their own set of prejudices and pre-conceived notions when entering the field which means that even the public health knowledge system is not "rational" in a definitive sense. But the very fact that local knowledge systems have to seek validation from rational and modern knowledge systems clearly shows the play of the forces of power and domination which has created and sustained the "information divide". This is the premise for my paper which I will substantiate with the use of case studies in health seeking behaviour and programmes to look at success stories and lessons learnt.


Keywords: Health, Health Related Behaviour, Knowledge, Power, Lay Knowledge, Social Capital, Social Inequalities
Stream: Psychology, Cognitive Science and Behavioural Sciences
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Aditi Chowdhary

Research Officer, AIDS Research and Control Centre (ARCON)
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

I have been involved in social sector since the past five years. I have an undergraduate honours degree in Sociology and Economics and a masters degree in Economics both from Mumbai University, India. I also have a masters in 'Health, Community and Development' from the London School of Econmics and Political Science, UK. Currently I work in the AIDS Research and Control Centre as a Research Officer. My areas of interest include HIV/AIDS, health and development issues especially sexual and reproductive health, gender and culture.

Ref: I08P0468