This bibliography contains over 1,000 references on health issues in Borneo, organized under 18 topical headings. These reports relate to the past and present health of all the large ethnic groups on the island but few of the smaller ones, since they have received less attention. The bibliography contains textual materials, including on-line links, and a few audio/visual materials. I have annotated many of the entries in order to identify the geographical areas studied, the groups investigated, and other data. J. R. R. Tolkien once wrote that his fictional hobbits liked to have books filled with things they already knew. Some users of this bibliography may also be pleased to find that it is full of things they already know, but others may find new or forgotten things. There are also lacunae in the bibliography, especially for Kalimantan; perhaps relatively few studies exist about its people’s health. And the further back in time we gaze, the fewer reports we find on the health of all of Borneo’s people.
Wayfarers from all over Southeast Asia and from India, China, Europe, and elsewhere visited Borneo long before European empires became rooted there. These travelers had little interest in the local health situation. When imperial Europeans arrived, they became interested in health matters primarily for their own survival in the tropics. It was not until the nineteenth century that Europeans living in Borneo started to pay some attention to the health of the inhabitants. By the twentieth century, if a rubber-plantation manager in British North Borneo thought malaria was decimating his workforce, he would likely stock up on quinine. All during this time, smallpox epidemics took their periodic toll because vaccination campaigns were slow in being recognized by rulers as having both economic and social benefits.
Modern health services did not arrive in Borneo until well into the twentieth century, and even then they did not penetrate much into the rugged interior. Today, however, such services are widely, if not universally, available and life spans are increasing. Despite these advantages, new menaces such as HIV/AIDS, drug-resistant infections, and environmental destruction and pollution are among the challenges that will continue to plague the island’s residents in the future.
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