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If, as most sources would agree, “social epidemiology” is defined as “a branch of epidemiology that focuses particularly on the effects of social-structural factors on health,” than connecting social epidemiology to “policy implications” is quite elementary. [Definition take from Kaori Honjo, “Social Epidemiology: Definition, History, and Research Examples,” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2723602/] Epidemiology is defined by the United Nations World Health Organization as:
“The study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events (including disease), and the application of this study to the control of diseases and other health problems.” [http://www.who.int/topics/epidemiology/en/]
Epidemiology, and its subset of social epidemiology, are heavily oriented toward the social or societal factors that contribute to patterns or incidences of diseases in certain communities. Connecting them to policy implications, a vague term, is a simple matter of identifying the social contributions to health problems and formulating a response. If the high incidence of diabetes and high blood pressure among the African American community, for example, is directly linked, as its been, to societal factors – for example, a history of racism severely limiting African American freedoms and opportunities – than the policy implications are clear: eliminate or reduce through de-legitimization the racism that has contributed to the problem and equalize opportunities for African Americans across society. If high incidences of certain diseases, like Ebola, which is the cause of a major current public health crisis in West Africa, are linked to cultural factors or traditions associated with particular communities, for example, the treatment of the dead – and, in this case, the contaminated corpses of Ebola victims – then, again, the policy implications are clear: The affected communities must be identified and introduced to more appropriate methods that may contravene traditional practices but which are essential to minimize the spread of the disease.
None of this is intended to minimize the scale of the challenge facing public health officials, as, in the case of the Ebola crisis, the problem is very serious and very difficult to correct, especially given the extent of distrust against government that exists in the small, highly-corrupt nations involved, but the policy implications can, at least, be acknowledged. The connection between social epidemiology and public policy, then, is one cause-and-effect. The cause of the health care problem is identified through research, and the conclusions of the research are acted upon (hopefully) by public health officials, with the support of the governments they represent.
Thank you, the Ebola example is very helpful.
You are welcome.
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