Attempts to Universalize Discourse

Since its inception, the WHO has paid considerable attention to alcohol and related problems as pertinent to public health. That organization encouraged the broad dissemination of epidemiological studies using translations (and later, adaptations) of survey instruments that had been developed in major Western research centers. In an attempt at standardization, workgroups and special committees often labored over defining terms, and spelling out objective diagnostic criteria. Because English has become the universal language of science and because so many non-Western practitioners and scientists are trained in the United States and the United Kingdom, there was heavy international reliance on conceptualization and terminology that were inextricably imbedded in thought-patterns of the metropole. It recently became evident that many of those meanings were being significantly misunderstood abroad, even by those who had studied them in English, and WHO has engaged some anthropologists and others in efforts to ensure that research and communication on the subject be better understood transculturally and transnationaly.

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