Disease in Populations in Transition: Anthropological and Epidemiological Perspectives

Disease in Populations in Transition: Anthropological and Epidemiological Perspectives

Disease in Populations in Transition: Anthropological and Epidemiological Perspectives

Disease in Populations in Transition: Anthropological and Epidemiological Perspectives

Synopsis

Societies in transition are often faced with new settings and/or new diseases that require a response in order for the affected group to thrive or survive. A lack of effective response by a transitional population to a new pathogen can lead to the group's disintegration. In a broad selection of 19 essays by distinguished researchers, the epidemiology and health status of prehistoric, historical, and present day populations in transition are thoroughly explored. Different models--biomedical, ethnomedical, ecological, and politicoeconomic--are used to illustrate the effects of transition on the health of human populations throughout the world.

Excerpt

The original impetus for this collection of essays was a meeting with the editors, Bruce Levin (University of Massachusetts), and R. H. Ward (University of Utah). We were discussing the evidence for and against the coevolution of human hosts and their pathogens in the course of history and the conversation turned to the broader issue of health transitions in human populations. It occurred to us that it would be of value to bring together a group of individuals with diverse interests in health and disease, to focus on populations in transition, and to incorporate both historical and contemporary perspectives. The intent was to see if we could collectively identify some common threads connecting populations that differ widely in space, time, and cultural manifestation.

The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research graciously agreed to support a conference on this topic, and it convened in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the fall of 1985. In attendance at the conference were the senior authors of each of the chapters presented here. There was a great deal of discussion about epidemiological transitions during the week we were assembled. There was also considerable interest and concern regarding the effects of contact between human societies on health. While we may have left a lot of threads dangling, what we did accomplish was to begin asking the right questions. If this volume precipitates an increased or renewed interest in the effects of demographic and social change on the health of populations, then we will have achieved our most important purpose.

The papers presented at this conference were written and revised for this volume and thus represent original contributions by the authors. In the introduction George Armelagos and I try to bring some of the common themes and insights into sharper relief. In the brief conclusion we summarize the areas of consensus that grew out of the roundtable discussions.

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