Epidemics: Science, Governance and Social Justice

epidemics

Epidemics: Science, Governance and Social Justice), co-edited with Melissa Leach (Earthscan, 2010)

Recent disease events such as SARS, H1N1 and avian influenza, and haemorrhagic fevers have focussed policy and public concern as never before on epidemics and so-called ’emerging infectious diseases’. Understanding and responding to these often unpredictable events have become major challenges for local, national and international bodies. All too often, responses can become restricted by implicit assumptions about who or what is to blame that may not capture the dynamics and uncertainties at play in the multi-scale interactions of people, animals and microbes. As a result, policies intended to forestall epidemics may fail, and may even further threaten health, livelihoods and human rights. The book takes a unique approach by focusing on how different policy-makers, scientists, and local populations construct alternative narratives-accounts of the causes and appropriate responses to outbreaks- about epidemics at the global, national and local level. The contrast between emergency-oriented, top-down responses to what are perceived as potentially global outbreaks and longer-term approaches to diseases, such as AIDS, which may now be considered endemic, is highlighted. Case studies-on avian influenza, SARS, obesity, H1N1 influenza, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and haemorrhagic fevers-cover a broad historical, geographical and biological range. As this book explores, it is often the most vulnerable members of a population-the poor, the social excluded and the already ill-who are likely to suffer most from epidemic diseases. At the same time, they may be less likely to benefit from responses that may be designed from a global perspective that neglects social, ecological and political conditions on the ground. This book aims to bring the focus back to these marginal populations to reveal the often unintended consequences of current policy responses to epidemics. Important implications emerge – for how epidemics are thought about and represented; for how surveillance and response is designed; and for whose knowledge and perspectives should be included. Published in association with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Reviews

‘This book provides readers with an intellectually fresh take on contemporary global health policy – epidemics are shaped and understood within specific normative frames. This raises fundamental questions about how we think about health and disease, but also how we practically respond to global epidemics.’Kelley Lee, Head, Public and Environmental Health Research Unit, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

‘As it is convincingly argued in this book, novel diseases – and responses to them – should not be viewed in isolation. Instead they need to be considered and addressed jointly with the challenges of socio-economic development, sustainable agriculture, rural development, and the protection of the environment. Health is the domain of all of us.’Jan Slingenbergh, Head, Animal Health Emergency Prevention System, Animal Health Service, Food and Agriculture Organization, UN

‘How best can our agents of government use good science to shape a better future for us? What boundaries and controls do we need to prevent the scientific agendas growing uncontrollably, metastasizing and taking over the other cherished aspects of our lives? These, I believe, are the most important questions of our time – encompassing the issues of global warming, AIDS, maternal deaths, nuclear disarmament, macro-economic stability, satellite and phone-tapping espionage. This book addresses them through specific cases of unexpected infectious diseases: epidemics.’Professor Samuel J. McConkey, Head, Department of International Health and Tropical Medicine, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

‘A comprehensive book on a wide range of, mainly infectious disease, epidemic situations around the world [that] highlights the complexity of the issues involved and the manifold different scenarios that can emerge.’ – Dr Jimmy Whitworth, Head of International Activities, The Wellcome Trust