Where is the Care in Caring: A Polemic on Medicalisation of Health and Humanitarianism





Medicalisation, Human Condition, Care, Collaboration, Compassion


Currently in the caring professions, the human condition of facing uncertainty and danger is often overlooked in the quest for measurable outcomes that prove efficiency, taking agency out of the hands of the individuals being cared for. Traits that make an ‘ideal’ practitioner include compassion, advocacy skills, and the ability to engage with people in vulnerable situations, and to establish trusting, respectful relationships. Within a system of models, quotas, and specialties, these traits are easily hindered within health care and humanitarianism. The critical examination in this article in no way rejects the valuable elements in the fields of humanitarianism and health care. Rather, it discusses how care can be re-introduced. Uncertainty and danger are part of the human experience, and caring interventions need to take that into account. This article highlights the benefits of a collaborative relationship between the person in crisis and the practitioner, instead of a paternalistic relationship in which the practitioner is viewed as the ‘expert.’ With a caring perspective, the individual who is experiencing the crisis will retain ownership of and responsibility for their life, and not rely solely on external sources of wellbeing and comfort.

Author Biography

Janaka Jayawickrama, Department of Health Sciences, University of York

Janaka, a native of Sri Lanka by birth, started his career as a local humanitarian worker in Sri Lanka in 1994. He collaborated with conflict affected Tamil, Sinhala, Muslim and other communities in Sri Lanka to help improving their wellbeing in uncertain and dangerous times. Since then he continued to collaborate with disaster, conflict and uneven development affected communities in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He has played key roles in various humanitarian responses including tsunami responses in Sri Lanka (2004), IDPs in Western Darfur, Sudan (2005), Afghan refugees in Pakistan (2006), refugees in Malawi (2006) and Iraqi refugees in Jordan (2007).

Janaka received his PhD in Social Anthropology and an MSc in Disaster Management and Sustainable Development from Northumbria University. Janaka also holds a Post-Graduate Certificate in Counseling and Psychotherapy from the All India Institute for Counseling, Psychotherapy and Human Relationships in Vellore and a Diploma in Trauma Treatment from the International Trauma Treatment Program in the USA.

Throughout his career Janaka has worked within and between academia and policy and practice in disasters, conflicts and uneven development. His on-going work on community wellbeing seeks to shape future policy and practice on humanitarian and recovery interventions in disasters and conflicts. As well as teaching graduate courses on humanitarian assistance, post-conflict/disaster reconstruction, project management, research methods, sustainable development and community wellbeing Janaka has also conducted local, national and regional workshops for national professionals on concepts of community care in disasters and conflicts, disaster risk reduction and humanitarian assistance.




How to Cite

Lindekens, J., & Jayawickrama, J. (2019). Where is the Care in Caring: A Polemic on Medicalisation of Health and Humanitarianism. Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies, 6(2), Article 3. https://doi.org/10.24926/ijps.v6i2.1975