Course Website Locator: shh215-01

Harvard School of Public Health

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Fall 2009

Dr. N. Krieger
5 credits
Lectures, seminars. One 3-hour session each week.

This course focuses on social and scientific contexts, content, and implications of theories of disease distribution, past and present. It considers how these theories shape questions people ask about--and explanations and interventions they offer for--patterns of health, disease, and well-being in their societies. After examining the role of theory in the production of scientific knowledge, Part I reviews both text-based theories of disease distribution developed in ancient Greece, China, and India, and oral traditions reflecting diverse American Indian, Latin American, African, and medieval European explanations of disease distribution. Parts II and III then focus on theories employed in past and present epidemiologic research because of their influence on current efforts to understand and improve the public's health. Part II considers the rise of epidemiology as a distinct discipline in both Europe and the United States, from 1700 to 1950. Part III examines current theories and controversies, and employs selected case examples to illustrate their application to--and implications for understanding--current and changing population distributions of disease and social inequalities in health, especially in relation to class, race/ethnicity, gender and sexuality. Emphasizing relationships between epidemiologic theory and practice, theories and frameworks covered include: miasma, contagion, germ theory, biomedical model, lifestyle, social production of disease, population health, lifecourse, health and human rights, and ecosocial theory.
Course Activities: Brief reflection papers on readings each week, class participation, one group project (textbook survey), one final paper.
Course Note: Enrollment limited to 25 students, with preference given to doctoral students in SHDH; signature of instructor required; no auditors. (5.06)


Course evaluations are an important method for feedback on the quality of course offerings. The submission of a course evaluation is a requirement for this course. Your grade for the course will be made available only after you have submitted responses to at least the first three questions of the on-line evaluation for this course.

Fall 2007

Dr. N. Krieger
5 credits
Will not be offered in 2008-09.
Lectures, seminars. One 3-hour session each week.

This course focuses on social and scientific contexts, content, and implications of theories of disease distribution, past and present. It considers how these theories shape questions people ask about--and explanations and interventions they offer for--patterns of health, disease, and well-being in their societies. After examining the role of theory in the production of scientific knowledge, Part I reviews both text-based theories of disease distribution developed in ancient Greece, China, and India, and oral traditions reflecting diverse American Indian, Latin American, African, and medieval European explanations of disease distribution. Parts II and III then focus on theories employed in past and present epidemiologic research because of their influence on current efforts to understand and improve the public's health. Part II considers the rise of epidemiology as a distinct discipline in both Europe and the United States, from 1700 to 1950. Part III examines current theories and controversies, and employs selected case examples to illustrate their application to--and implications for understanding--current and changing population distributions of disease and social inequalities in health, especially in relation to class, race/ethnicity, gender and sexuality. Emphasizing relationships between epidemiologic theory and practice, theories and frameworks covered include: miasma, contagion, germ theory, biomedical model, lifestyle, social production of disease, population health, lifecourse, health and human rights, and ecosocial theory.
Course Activities: Brief reflection papers on readings each week, class participation, one group project (textbook survey), one final paper.
Course Note: Enrollment limited to 25 students, with preference given to doctoral students in SHDH; signature of instructor required; no auditors. (5.06)


Course evaluations are an important method for feedback on the quality of course offerings. The submission of a course evaluation is a requirement for this course. Your grade for the course will be made available only after you have submitted responses to at least the first three questions of the on-line evaluation for this course.

Fall 2006

Dr. N. Krieger
5 credits
Lectures, seminars. One 3-hour session each week.

This course focuses on social and scientific contexts, content, and implications of theories of disease distribution, past and present. It considers how these theories shape questions people ask about--and explanations and interventions they offer for--patterns of health, disease, and well-being in their societies. After examining the role of theory in the production of scientific knowledge, Part I reviews both text-based theories of disease distribution developed in ancient Greece, China, and India, and oral traditions reflecting diverse American Indian, Latin American, African, and medieval European explanations of disease distribution. Parts II and III then focus on theories employed in past and present epidemiologic research because of their influence on current efforts to understand and improve the public's health. Part II considers the rise of epidemiology as a distinct discipline in both Europe and the United States, from 1700 to 1950. Part III examines current theories and controversies, and employs selected case examples to illustrate their application to--and implications for understanding--current and changing population distributions of disease and social inequalities in health, especially in relation to class, race/ethnicity, gender and sexuality. Emphasizing relationships between epidemiologic theory and practice, theories and frameworks covered include: miasma, contagion, germ theory, biomedical model, lifestyle, social production of disease, population health, lifecourse, health and human rights, and ecosocial theory.
Course Activities: Brief reflection papers on readings each week, class participation, one group project (textbook survey), one final paper.
Course Note: Enrollment limited to 25 students, with preference given to doctoral students in SHDH; signature of instructor required; no auditors. (5.06)


Course evaluations are an important method for feedback on the quality of course offerings. The submission of a course evaluation is a requirement for this course. Your grade for the course will be made available only after you have submitted responses to at least the first three questions of the on-line evaluation for this course.

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