Lim Chong Yah Lecture by Professor Mohan J. Dutta

Voices at the margins of health:
A culture-centered approach to addressing global health inequalities

Prof. Mohan J. Dutta

Prof. Mohan J. Dutta

Mohan J. Dutta
Lim Chong Yah Professor, National University of Singapore
Professor of Communication and Associate Dean of Research & Graduate Education, Purdue University

Date: Friday 6 August 2010
Time: 10.30 a.m. to 12 noon
Venue: LT10

One of the most salient characteristics of contemporary public health is the deep inequality in health outcomes that exists within and between populations. Of particular importance are the absence of health infrastructures and capacities in the marginalized sectors of the globe in spite of the rhetorical emphasis of development institutions on pro-poor policies over the last six decades. In response to the lack of health infrastructures in marginalized communities, Professor Dutta proposes the culture-centered approach to health communication based on the observation that structural marginalization of the poor is fundamentally situated amidst discursive marginalization. The culture-centered approach puts forth the argument that the concept of culture is either missing from most public health and health communication theories that have been developed in Western elite circles, or is narrowly conceptualized as a static mapping of a place and its people that can then be utilized for developing effective health interventions. Instead, the approach proposes that culture is contextual and dynamic, constituted in the lived experiences of people and in their everyday struggles to make sense of the conditions in which they live. The emphasis therefore is on listening to the voices of the marginalized sectors of the globe that have been erased from the dominant discursive spaces of health care policies and interventions. Listening to these voices creates the bulwark for building locally centered theories of health in global spaces that render impure the stable categories of dominant theorizing and create openings for change.

Professor Mohan J. Dutta (Ph.D., University of Minnesota) is Professor of Communication and Associate Dean of Research & Graduate Education in the College of Liberal Arts at Purdue University. One of the most prolific scholars in health communication and winner of the Lewis Donohew Outstanding Scholar in Health Communication Award, he has been widely recognized for his work with the culture-centered approach to health communication. In his research with marginalized communities across the globe, he has explored the ways in which locally situated stories of health create openings for challenging the rationalities of dominant theories of health communication. Professor Dutta has published over 110 journal articles and book chapters in health communication in a short span of nine years and is the author of four books in health and development communication, including the widely used book Communicating health: A culture-centered approach. His work has been funded by the MacArthur Foundation, Agency for HealthCare Research & Quality, and the National Institutes of Health. At Purdue University, he is a fellow of the Service Learning Academy and the Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy, where he is currently developing a model of community-based networks of change.

Professor Mohan J. Dutta, recipient of the Lim Chong Yah Professorship, will be visiting CNM from 2 to 11 August 2010.

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