Article ID: CBB856188518

The epistemic values at the basis of epidemiology and public health (2021)


In the middle of the severest public health crisis of the 21 st century thus far, scholars in the humanities and health and social sciences have accelerated their reflections about public health, its evidence base, its normative dimensions, as well as its successes, failures, and pitfalls. In this paper, we aim to contribute to this global thinking about public health by focusing on one particular aspect, namely its dependence on epidemiology as the main generator of evidence for public health interventions and policy. Our argument is that while it is undeniable that epidemiology (and its sub-fields) have made very many significant contributions both to enlarge our knowledge of disease and its causation, prevalence, and incidence and to channel public health interventions, it also has its limits. The limitations of epidemiology lie in the (implicit) epistemic assumptions which involve focusing on (aggregates of) individuals and obscure the key role of the social level of analysis. These limitations, however, are also an opportunity to highlight and rethink a more distinctly social approach to health and disease, and one that is genuinely population in character. Our argument applies broadly, but the COVID-19 pandemic makes it an urgent topic to address.

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Authors & Contributors
Honigsbaum, Mark
Richards, Paul
Poliana Maia
Justi, Rosaria
Monique Santos
Charters, Erica M.
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Journal of Global History
Perspectives in Biology and Medicine
Medicina Historica
Mefisto: Rivista di medicina, filosofia, storia
Science and Education
I. B. Tauris
Cambridge University Press
Carocci Editore
Public health
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Medicine and society
Medicine and politics
Mill, John Stuart
Time Periods
21st century
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
20th century, late
16th century
Sierra Leone
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Great Britain
New Zealand

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