School of Social and Political Science

Social Anthropology Seminar: The Field Officer: Tuberculosis, Technology, Targets

12 November 2021
15:00 - 17:00




Starting in 2014, the Gates Foundation piloted a new program called the PPIA (Private Public Interface Agency) to engage the private sector in Patna, India. The aim was to shorten the delay to diagnosis for TB patients by incentivizing providers, compounders, chemists, lab owners and other actors in the health system. Incentives were meant to allow providers to test patients using new technology, GeneXpert, that would give a confirmed positive or negative TB result using sputum and whether the strain was drug-resistant. PPIA was staffed by field officers whose duties would include troubleshooting glitches in the day to day running of the program, explaining to patients their treatment, and making sure all the components of the program worked in tandem. Yet, field officers were also the element of the program that was meant to be rendered unnecessary through apps that would do the work that was done by them. The eventual obsolescence and the redundancy of field officers were understood to mark the program's success that would prove the feasibility of the intervention to be scaled up across other sites. This talk will explore how field officers implemented the health intervention on the ground, the success of which in the way it was measured also erased the traces of their work.


Seminar convenors: 

Jiazhi Fengjiang

Resto Cruz

Key speakers

  • Vaibhav Saria, Simon Fraser University