Epidemiology is often referred to as the science of public health. However, unlike other major sciences, its theoretical foundations are rarely articulated. While the idea of epidemiologic theory may seem dry and arcane, it is at its core about explaining the people’s health. It is about life and death. It is about biology and society. It is about ecology and the economy. It is about how myriad aspects of people’s lives – involving work, dignity, desire, love, play, conflict, discrimination, and injustice – become literally incorporated into our bodies and manifest in our health status, individually and collectively. And it is about essential knowledge critical for improving the people’s health and minimizing inequitable burdens of disease, disability, and death.
Woven from a vast array of schools of thought, including those in the natural, social, and biomedical sciences, epidemiologic theory is a rich tapestry whose time for analysis is long overdue. By tracing its history and contours from ancient societies on through the development of – and debates within – contemporary epidemiology worldwide, Dr. Krieger shows how epidemiologic theory has long shaped epidemiologic practice, knowledge, and the politics of public health. Outlining an ecosocial theory of disease distribution that situates both population health and epidemiologic theory in societal and ecologic context, she offers a more holistic picture of how we embody the human experience.
This concise, conceptually rich, and accessible book is a rallying cry for a return to the study and discussion of epidemiologic theory: what it is, why it matters, how it has changed over time, and its implications for improving population health and promoting health equity. It should be required reading for all epidemiologists, or anyone involved in the study of human health and well-being.