The foundations of local health services in Madagascar were laid when the island was taken over by the French in 1896. Medical care was a major priority for the first colonial governor named General Galliéni. Local health services expanded greatly from 1896 to 1950 thanks notably to institutions such as the Tananarive Medical School and Pasteur Institute. These services played a crucial role in the fight against smallpox and bubonic plague. However they were also used for political purposes by both colonial and independent governments. In sum the history of local health services in Madagascar can be described as a battle between political power and scientific knowledge. The overall result is positive for some and controversial for others.