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Epidemiology and the People’s HealthTheory and Context$
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Nancy Krieger

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195383874

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195383874.001.0001

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Contemporary Mainstream Epidemiologic Theory

Contemporary Mainstream Epidemiologic Theory

Biomedical and Lifestyle

(p.126) 5 Contemporary Mainstream Epidemiologic Theory
Epidemiology and the People’s Health

Nancy Krieger (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Chapter 5 critically analyzes the biomedical and lifestyle approaches dominating epidemiologic theorizing and research since the mid-20th century. Tracing the origins of the term “biomedicine,” it explicates the core assumptions of the “biomedical model” and its reduction of explanations of disease occurrence to disease mechanisms within individual organisms. It next discusses the complex history of “lifestyle” theorizing, as linked to the rise of “consumer” society and also 20th c methodological individualism, including its reduction of social phenomena to individual attributes. Together with the newly coined construct of “risk factor” (first employed by the Framingham study for research on cardiovascular and other chronic diseases), these frameworks coalesced into mainstream epidemiology's theoretical foundation, exemplified by the widely-adopted spiderless web of causation, whose features are explicated. New 21st century variants are also discussed, as per the frameworks of “gene-environment interaction,” ‘evolutionary medicine,” and the “developmental origins of health and disease” (DOHaD).

Keywords:   biomedical, developmental origins of health and disease, epidemiologic theory, epidemiology, evolutionary medicine, gene-environment interaction, lifestyle, methodological individualism, reductionism, web of causation

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