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The Legacy of Colonial Medicine in Central Africa
Authors: Sara Lowes and Eduardo Montero
Source: American Economic Review, Vol. 111 No. 4; DOI: 10.1257/aer.20180284
Topic(s): Biomarkers
Race and ethnicity
Spatial analysis
Country: Africa
  Multiple African Countries
  Central African Republic
Published: APR 2021
Abstract: Between 1921 and 1956, French colonial governments organized medical campaigns to treat and prevent sleeping sickness. Villagers were forcibly examined and injected with medications with severe, sometimes fatal, side effects. We digitized 30 years of archival records to document the locations of campaign visits at a granular geographic level for five central African countries. We find that greater campaign exposure reduces vaccination rates and trust in medicine, as measured by willingness to consent to a blood test. We examine relevance for present-day health initiatives; World Bank projects in the health sector are less successful in areas with greater exposure.