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Emerg Infect Dis. 1996 Oct-Dec; 2(4): 259–269.
PMCID: PMC2639930

Social inequalities and emerging infectious diseases.


Although many who study emerging infections subscribe to social-production-of-disease theories, few have examined the contribution of social inequalities to disease emergence. Yet such inequalities have powerfully sculpted not only the distribution of infectious diseases, but also the course of disease in those affected. Outbreaks of Ebola, AIDS, and tuberculosis suggest that models of disease emergence need to be dynamic, systemic, and critical. Such models--which strive to incorporate change and complexity, and are global yet alive to local variation--are critical of facile claims of causality, particularly those that scant the pathogenic roles of social inequalities. Critical perspectives on emerging infections ask how large-scale social forces influence unequally positioned individuals in increasingly interconnected populations; a critical epistemology of emerging infectious diseases asks what features of disease emergence are obscured by dominant analytic frameworks. Research questions stemming from such a reexamination of disease emergence would demand close collaboration between basic scientists, clinicians, and the social scientists and epidemiologists who adopt such perspectives.

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Selected References

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