Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Social epidemiology recommendation

I am totally digging the first week of Social Epidemiology, a course on Coursera. (Quick summary of Coursera: free classes; you don’t have to commit, can just watch the lectures if that’s all you want; entirely online and open.) Epidemiology is of course the study of disease at a population level, and most people think of classic epidemiology cases like Ebola virus (who got it first? how is it transmitted in the population? who’s most at risk? how do we stop its spread?). But social epidemiology is about the social factors in disease — most commonly chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. What social factors cause people to live unhealthy lives?

This is obviously applicable to veterinary preventive medicine (though not directly addressed in the class; it takes some extrapolation). Why don’t people vaccinate their animals? Why don’t they exercise their animals? My personal interest is in how to prevent these sorts of problems, so I’m very much hoping that later in the class it will address preventive medicine and policy (how do we help people live healthier lives?). But if I wait until that happens to recommend it, it will be too late! Take it now! No committment! You can just listen to the lectures (or just do the readings). Only take the quizzes if you want to (though the first one wasn’t difficult). Just learn!

Hopefully a few years from now I will be offering the world’s first Social Veterinary Epidemiology class online. A girl can hope.


  1. Thanks for the headsup for this course. :) I'll definitely have a look.

    Sounds not disimilar to projects like "The Social Health Atlas" that look to map health outcomes and look at geographic areas that have increased incidence of some diseases, and then the social factors that may cause them.

  2. Let us know if you end up taking it and like it!

    The Social Health Atlas sounds intriguing -- I'll check it out.

  3. I handle between 10-40 dogs a day on average, and I can tell you why people don't exercise their dogs. It's really hard! How far could you walk an Alaskan Malamute who has no leash training, and is attached to you by a harness and a flimsy retractable leash?

    A dachshund that wraps you up in the leash ten times before you take a step?

    Two labs that lunge at anything exciting without any notice to the person they're walking with?

    The cases above are not extreme, they're average. If perchance you have a well behaved dog, any time you see another person with a dog while walking, you and your dog are also at risk for mayhem. One of my clients has a dog with massive scars on its side from a Pomeranian.

    I think if adequate training were given to the owners of dogs, many of the issues seen today would clear up.