Apr 4: Japan, public health & historical events

Monday, April 4 (12:20-1:10 pm, 555 Diehl Hall)

“Japan and the Wider World from a Perspective of Public Health: The Imperial Japanese Army, the Siberian Intervention and the Commission Sanitaire des Pays Alliés”
Sumiko Otsubo, Ph.D.,
Department of History, Metropolitan State University

Abstract: For Japan, the Siberian Intervention (1918-1922), or the multinational military intervention in the Russian Civil War against the Red Army in Siberia, was a costly war which accomplished very little geopolitically. From an epidemiological perspective, however, it was significant. It established microbiological links by putting refugees, Allied troops, and military horses in contact with locals. This made them unknowing hosts to, and carriers of, such deadly infectious diseases as cholera, typhus, and influenza. In order to protect their own troops, Japanese army physicians began to work with like-minded colleagues of the co-belligerent nations. Thus, the Commission Sanitaire des Pays Alliés (Rengōkoku Eisei Kaigi) was created in August 1918. Though there have been studies on international collaboration in Siberia focusing on the Red Cross, the Imperial Japanese Army’s involvement in this joint public health work has been little researched. This study hypothesizes that this military medical cooperation in Siberia ushered in the era in which Japan became integrated into the existing International Office of Public Health (est. 1907), which would become the foundation of the International Health Organization in the League of Nations. In other words, the transnational nature of diseases during the Intervention and the multinational nature of the Intervention might have played a key role in preparing Japan for participation in the institutionalization of a permanent international health organization.

crossposted from Program in Health and Human Rights
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