News & Events

Africa and the Epidemiological Imagination Workshop

Start Date: 06 September 2018 09:00AM 
End Date:  07 September 2018 08:00PM

Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building, UCL, Gower Street WC1E 6BT

The Institute of Advanced Studies is delighted to host this multidisciplinary workshop sponsored by the Wellcome Trust.

Over the past two decades, chronic health conditions, such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, diabetes, cancer, liver and renal diseases, as well as mental health disorders, have become increasingly visible on the African continent. Whether it is a local newspaper in Kampala or Accra or a critical report from the World Health Organization, the explanation for this increase in chronic diseases is often attributed to wealth and “lifestyle choices,” and an epidemiological transition. First put forward by Abdul Omran in 1971, this theory was an attempt to spell out the consequences of the extraordinary advances in health status made in industrialized countries since the eighteenth century. Omran posited that all societies would move through three stages, from a regime dominated by pestilence and famine, characterized by high and fluctuating mortality and low life expectancy, through an age of receding pandemics to one dominated by degenerative and man-made disease. The idea that Africa is the last continent to undergo the “transition” to a “modern” epidemiological regime still underlies much of the health policy literature and the messages being conveyed to African patients, despite the many the existence of many critiques of Omran’s theory.

In this workshop, our aim is to bring historians and social scientists into conversation with epidemiologists and public health policy officials who are making knowledge and policy about the chronic disease epidemic on the continent. We ask: what is the utility of “transition” as a way to theorize, describe, and explain the increasingly visible chronic disease burden on the continent? What are the strategies for rethinking temporalities of transition on the African continent? How do we bring “transitions”—political, economic, epidemiological – into the same frame of analysis? Other core questions include: What new theoretical tools are historians and public health colleagues using to move beyond the theory of epidemiological transitions? What are the challenges we face in making knowledge about the emergence of a chronic disease epidemic on the continent? And lastly, what can historians and social scientists and epidemiologists, clinicians, and public health policy makers learn from one another in a time of increasing urgency as patients seek relief for chronic conditions and African health practitioners strive to provide that care?

•Revisiting ‘epidemiological transition’ theory from the vantage point of the ‘global south’.
•Epidemiological methods and data collection: case studies from sub-Saharan Africa.
•Developmental origins, epigenetics and alternative temporalities.
•“Lifestyle diseases”, food, nutrition, environment and global systems.
•Chronic conditions and the challenges of care.

Confirmed Speakers Include:
•Kafui Adjaye-Gbewonyo, University College London
•Betsey Brada, Reed College
•Catherine Burns, University of Pretoria
•Ama de-Graft Aikins, University of Ghana
•Shane Doyle, University of Leeds
•Marissa Mika, University College London
•Amy Moran Thomas, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
•Tolu Oni, University of Cambridge
•Jackson Orem, Uganda Cancer Institute
•Randall Packard, Johns Hopkins University
•Michelle Pentecost, Oxford University
•Ruth Prince, University of Oslo
•David Reubi, King’s College London
•Olutobi Sanuade, University College London
•Kavita Sivaramakrishnan, Columbia University
•Simon Szreter, University of Cambridge
•Megan Vaughan, University College London
•Emily Yates Doerr, University of Amsterdam and Oregon State University
•Branwyn Poleykett, University of Cambridge

•Megan Vaughan , IAS, UCL
•Marissa Mika, IAS, UCL
•Olutobi Sanuade, IAS, UCL

All welcome, please register here.