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Social medicine: national and international transfer of ideas
  1. Virginia Berridge
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor V Berridge
 Centre for History in Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK; virginia.berridge{at}

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The complex transmission of ideas and practices about public health calls out for more research.

Mervyn Susser’s biographical memoir gives a vivid sense of the practical impact of social medicine in South Africa in the 1940s, and the 1950s. This South African “experiment”, embraced by the pre-1948 Ministry of Health through the Gluckmann Commission that saw a network of health centres as the basis of a national health service, was rediscovered after the election of a democratic and non-racial government in South Africa in the 1990s.

Commentators such as Steve Tollman and William Pick have drawn attention to the great symbolic importance of COPHC (community oriented primary care) in recent South African history, but a limited and patchy translation into practice.1 Perhaps the initial …

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