Medicine, Faith and Politics in Agogo: A History of Rural Health Care in Ghana (ca. 1925 to 1990)

Pascal Schmid

This thesis historically analyses the development of rural health care in its local, national and transnational context. The leading research question is: How did health care in rural Africa develop in the 'short 20th century'?

Using the history of Agogo Hospital in Ghana as a case study, this leading question is broken down to three key topics:

  • The development, transfer, implementation and adaptation of medical concepts and health care strategies on the local, national and transnational level.
  • The development of Ghana’s rural health care system with a focus on the role of missions, churches, and, more generally, private not-for-profit organisations.
  • The role of the hospital and the related health care services for the local health system.

Agogo Hospital was founded in 1931 by the Basel Mission from Switzerland. Today it is run by the Presbyterian Church of Ghana and serves as a District Hospital in a rural area in Ashanti Region. The thesis will focus on the actors on the ground, their interests, ideologies, values, resources, their room for manoeuvre and their strategies. It shows how health care practice was continuously shaped and re-shaped by the practitioners’ interaction with and their relation to institutions and networks on different levels. These include governmental and private organisations in Ghana and abroad, traditional and local authorities, international bodies, as well as transnational religious and scientific networks. Agogo Hospital is presented as a nodal point in a web of institutions and networks; its history serves as the lens through which the entanglement of interests, ideas, conceptions and values can be made comprehensible. By portraying the constellations that were formative for the development, implementation, adaptation and rejection of health care strategies, the study not only provides a in-depth analysis of the history of one particular hospital, but also provides new perspectives on the history of the Ghanaian health care system, as well as on the development of ‘global health’ in the 20th century.