Disease & Public Health
- What is a disease? What is an epidemic?
- What is the difference between epidemiology and public health?
- Does globalization increase the spread of disease?
- What role should governments play in ensuring public health?
- What are the greatest threats to public health in your country?
- What are the greatest threats to public health worldwide?
- When would it be appropriate to quarantine an entire city or country?
- When should you give up on saving a patient’s life?
- Should doctors risk their own lives to treat victims of epidemics?
- How can we keep our societies safe from epidemics?
- What is the difference between individual and structural interventions?
- Are we all ultimately responsible for our own health?
- Should we strive for a world without disease?
- Is it worth sacrificing a few lives to develop the cure to a fatal disease?
In Sickness and in Health
- Purpose of Public Health
- Hospitals, Clinics, and Other Health Providers
- Medical Education
- National and Global Institutions
- Private vs. Public Health
- Successes and Shortcomings
- From Hippocrates to the Four Humors: Classical Views of Disease
- Distinguishing Sickness, Illness, and Disease
- Advances in the 19th and 20th Centuries
- Agents of Infection & Modes of Pathogen Transmission
- Detecting and Managing Epidemics
- The Search for Cures and Treatments
- Social Responses to Disease
Diseases to Explore (Examples)
- smallpox | bubonic plague | cholera | polio
- syphilis | tuberculosis | malaria | influenza | dengue
- yellow fever | leishmaniasis | hepatitis | mumps
- meningitis | HIV/AIDS | cooties | chicken pox
- obesity | smoking | type 2 diabetes
Historical Outbreaks to Research (Examples)
- The Black Death | Plague of Justinian | Antonine Plague | Plague of Athens
- Cholera epidemic of 1854 | Great Plague of London | Ebola outbreak of 2015|
- Cocoliztli epidemics | the First and Second Cholera Pandemics
- Third Plague Pandemic | 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic
- Avian Bird Flu of 1957 | H1N1 | SARS & MERS in the 21st century
Terms to Learn (Examples)
- endemic | outbreak | pathogenicity | triage
- prevalence | incidence | retrovirus | incubation
- infectious vs. lifestyle diseases | epidemiological transition
- intervention | descriptive vs. analytic epidemiology
- risk factors | cohort | zoonosis | fomite | latency | outlier
- dependent vs. independent variables | false negative
- agent | double blind trials | patient zero | chain of infection
- droplet spread | herd immunity | morbidity | comorbidity
- infant mortality | heterozygote advantage
- Center for Disease Control
Additional Cases & Questions to Discuss
- Explore the impact of smallpox on the indigenous peoples of the Americas. How different would the world look today if humans never got sick?
- Consider the treatment of these supposed psychological disorders in the Victorian Era. Are there diseases being diagnosed today that will someday be viewed as critically?
- Research Beijing’s so-called Airpocalypse. Do other cities face similar threats? How would you go about solving this crisis?
- Explore the impact of climate change on the spread of disease. What measures do you think should be taken in response, if any?
- Why is mad cow disease both a medical and a political issue?
- Look into the shortcomings in the research used to assess a seemingly “100% effective” Ebola vaccine. Should this vaccine be widely administered despite the imperfect data?
- What can the Ebola outbreak teach us?
- Is it possible that the Plague of Athens was actually an Ebola outbreak?
- Is it a good idea to eradicate diseases that may help prevent other diseases? Consider the cases of cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia.
- Study the politics of the zombie apocalypse. What countries would in fact respond best to such a threat? Is the world prepared for a disaster of this magnitude?
- Obesity is on the rise all over the world. Discuss the possible consequences. Should governments do more to regulate how much people eat and exercise?
- Was the Black Death truly the greatest catastrophe ever? How you would react if an equally lethal (and mysterious!) disease were breaking out in your own community?
- Read about the eradication of smallpox (and about its history as a disease and as an early case study in inoculation). What does it mean for a disease to be eradicated?
- Should hookahs be treated as a public health threat?
- What could be causing dramatic increases in the rates of autism and ADHD among children?
- Although today they are obvious threats to public health, radioactive consumer goods were once very popular. Are there any products on the market now that might be remembered with an equal mix of scorn and horror in a hundred years?