Nov 19, 2018 Last Updated 2:51 AM, Nov 19, 2018

Crisis is bad for your health

Published: Jul 27, 2007


Michel Ford

Almost five years after the onset of the Asian economic crisis in 1997–98, it is clear that the crisis has had a lasting impact on the wellbeing of Indonesians. Demands on Indonesia to repay foreign debt have put pressure on the health budget. The incidence of poverty has risen, and accessibility to health care has decreased with the rising cost of drugs and treatments. The crisis in direction and social trust that accompanied the economic crisis has had major implications for social policy — as Laine Berman’s lead article suggests, post-crisis Indonesia has experienced the rise of a jungkie culture in which young Indonesians reject the hypocrisy of mainstream conformity.

Disease is also sensitive to political developments. In recent months, wars in Iraq and Aceh have shared the headlines with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS — a stark reminder that so-called third world diseases are a global problem, not a national one. David Mitchell’s discussion of malaria emphasises the link between deteriorating public health and the lack of political stability. On a more positive note, Tim Baker describes the contribution Surf Aid has made to the control of the disease in the Mentawai Islands. The staff of Humana also remind us of the importance of NGOs’ work in the community in their account of health initiatives for street kids in Yogyakarta.

Traditional healthcare and medicines have experienced a resurgence in popularity in Indonesia since the crisis. Inez Mahoney’s article examines the practices of dukun, or traditional healers, for whom business has boomed in recent years, while David Mitchell’s article on one dukun’s treatment of shrinking penis disease offers a fascinating insight into the tensions between modern and traditional concepts of disease and treatment. Margot Lyon explains how jamu (traditional medicine) has responded to the demands of modern life. Meanwhile, Putu Oka Sukanta warns that the ccommercialisation of traditional medicines and treatments threatens communities’ cultural viability as well as their health.

The politics of the body does not just concern health. Nicolaas Warouw’s article offers an insight into the pivotal role grooming plays in factory workers’ preservation of their sense of self-worth, while Megan Jennaway discusses the relationship between women’s dress and their identity. Graham offers an upbeat assessment of local government initiatives to provide HIV/AIDS education to transvestites in Southern Sulawesi, and I have contributed a short account of Hotline Surabaya’s attempts to encourage sex workers to organise in East Java. Rosmalinda describes the dilemmas faced by pregnant teenagers, while Ygerne ten Brinke and Tom van den Berge update us on debates about abortion legislation. Janene Byrne and Cucu Saidah discuss the challenges facing people with disabilities in Indonesia.

On other matters, we welcome the addition of Tim Lindsey’s cartoons as a new regular feature. Muhammad Riza’s article on pesticide policy in Indonesia and Brendan Ross’ commentary on the mining industry remind us of the links between the environment and health. The Hon Justice Marcus Einfeld provides us with a valuable insight into cooperative legal initiatives involving Australian and Indonesian lawyers and judges. The issue concludes with a timely reminder of the failure of the Aceh peace process — a development that of course concerns us deeply at Inside Indonesia. We are planning a special edition on Aceh for 2004.

Michele Ford (michele.ford@flinders.edu.au) is a guest editor for Inside Indonesia

Inside Indonesia 75: Jul - Sep 2003

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