Summer school: social epidemiology

I’m a fan of massive open online courses (MOOCs) for a number of reasons (access! better resources for autodidacts! affordable education!) and now that I have a bit more time, I’m digging into the wealth of classes available on Coursera. My first summer class is Social Epidemiology, taught by Michael Oakes of the University of Minnesota.  From his intro video, Oakes takes the perspective “that health is a collective action problem, that only when we consider social arrangements do we get a complete picture of what makes people and populations thrive.”  It’s been exciting to read the introduction notes from my classmates, who come from around the world and range from curious laypeople to physicians to students to policy makers.

There’s still time to join in — we’re just in week one of a seven-week program — but there are a wide-range of other classes available, too. I pulled a list of courses in Biology & Life Sciences, Health & Society, Medicine, and Social Sciences and it’s substantial; a huge improvement from last year when the vast majority were computer science classes. My next planned class is Neuroethics from the University of Pennsylvania, which begins in mid-September and looks juicy:

Infectious homicide in Newark

New research from Michigan State confirms that homicide and infectious disease have similar patterns of spread.  The team applied public health tracking software and methods to analyze data about homicides in Newark, NJ between 1982 and 2008.

Principal researcher April Zeoli, an assistant professor of criminal justice, points out that this methodology could be applied in real time to help law enforcement be more proactive about addressing new “outbreaks”.  She also indicated that some areas remained free of homicides despite being surrounded by hot spots.  From the MSU press release:

“If we could discover why some of those communities are resistant,” Zeoli said, “we could work on increasing the resistance of our communities that are more susceptible to homicide.”

Sounds like time to call in the anthropologists.