CfP: Public Health in East and Southeast Europe: Growth, Inequality and the State.

(Press release of the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies (IOS) Regensburg)

The Corona pandemic has dramatically highlighted the precarious nature of healthcare in East and Southeast Europe. The economies of post-transition have long-term spending patterns that are roughly half what Western European economies spend on healthcare relative to GDP. Privatization of part of the public healthcare, wide-spread corruption in this sector and the loss of specialists due to out-migration have all contributed to a deterioration of public health services for the average citizen over the last twenty years, manifesting itself also in an inadequate response to the Corona crisis and some of the highest Covid-related mortality rates in the world. The poor quality of public health services has led to an erosion of trust in the health care system in the region. One factor that might explain the low vaccination rates in Eastern and Southeastern Europe is this apparent lack of trust.

At the same time, the positive effects of high-quality public health on society are well known and go much beyond immediate health benefits. Economic growth, equal opportunity, social participation and in general a high quality of life go hand in hand with it. It is still in the vivid memory of the older generations in East and Southeast Europe that the massive expansion of public health – as a consequence of industrialization under Communism – brought tremendous social and individual benefits. So, what are the economic, social, and political factors that have changed the size and the nature of public health in the last three decades so considerably? On the other hand, what were the actual “side effects” and deficits of socialist public health?

Historically, what factors have contributed to the creation of public health systems in the first place and which specific development patterns can be detected in Eastern and Southeastern Europe through the 20th century? What (dis)continuities can there be traced between (pre-) socialist and post-socialist patterns of development?

The 2022 Annual Conference of the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies will investigate the current state of public health and its recent as well as historical development in the region from multiple perspectives. We want to highlight the economic, social and political dimensions of public health today and in the past. We invite proposals that address the following issues:

  • Relationship between healthcare and economic performance
  • Public health and patterns of inequality
  • Trajectories of public health and (pre-)socialist legacies
  • Political contestation and health care
  • Production and circulation of public health knowledge
  • Trust (and the lack thereof) and healthcare

The conference aims at a cross-disciplinary dialogue. We, therefore, invite proposals from different social sciences, including anthropology, cultural studies, history, economics, political science, public health, and sociology that address the key questions of the conference. While we want to focus on East and Southeast Europe, we also encourage comparative and transregional perspectives.

The conference language is English. IOS Regensburg will cover accommodation costs and support travel costs of presenters.

Convenors: Ulf Brunnbauer, Hartmut Lehmann, Gergana Mircheva, Olga Popova

Further information