HIDDEN EPIDEMICS & EPIDEMIOLOGICAL OBFUSCATION
Epidemiological processes ostensibly exist to reveal and ascribe features to burdens of disease at a population level. However, as the designated arbiters of visibility in public health, epidemiological processes are well placed to also obscure and hide burdens of disease.
Epidemiological obfuscation can occur in many forms. At times it is overt, for example when the authoritative trappings of epidemiology (e.g., graphs, charts and spreadsheets) are wielded to deny the existence of an apparent burden of disease, be it a cholera outbreak in a politically sensitive part of Ethiopia, a cluster of cases of a rare cancer near a chemical waste plant in the United States, or a TB epidemic in residential schools in Canada. More often though, it appears that epidemiological obfuscation is subtle and unconscious. It comes about from choices baked into the daily practices of epidemiologists, modellers, and public health policy makers and occurs as part of larger material and political landscapes and in conjunction with other clinical, laboratory and, data collection processes. Understanding the various forms and circumstances of epidemiological obfuscation has important implications for biosecurity and social justice.
Hidden Epidemics is an interdisciplinary research network interested in characterising processes of epidemiological obfuscation and the situations in which they occur.
We invite researchers, public health practitioners, policymakers, patient activists, and anyone else with an interest in this area, to join us once a month to discuss various aspects of epidemiological obfuscation.
If you would like to receive notifications of upcoming events, contact Liza Hadley. If you would like to suggest a speaker or have a topic or case study you would like to see discussed, contact Freya Jephcott.
Thumbnail Citations: A man with his hands over his face, a woman with her hands covering her ears and another man with his hands covering his mouth with a message about how HIV is communicated; a poster from the America responds to Aids advertising campaign. Lithograph, 1994. Wellcome Collection.