Introduction Epidemiological theory matters for seeing, analysing, depicting and tackling population distributions of health and health inequities. The contrasts between the dominant (biomedical and lifestyle) and alternative (socio-political, psychosocial and ecosocial) epidemiological theories are present in the imagery used to illustrate population health distributions. This symposium will provoke deeper thinking of how health distributions are created by exploring the interplay between theory and imagery.
Methods The competing theories to explain health distributions will be presented and critiqued in relation to case studies across the world. The theoretical underpinnings to imagery in medicine and politics will then be exposed with a particular focus on the iconography used in explaining health inequalities. The Worldmapper resource and Unnatural Causes video will then be showcased prior to a group discussion on the implications of the presented material.
Results Competing epidemiological theories have their own imagery and iconography which reinforce their value base. Awareness of the underlying theory should provoke epidemiologists to consider which images and icons they utilise when attempting to explain their findings.
Conclusion Health inequity explanations can be lost in translation if inappropriate images and icons are utilised. Explanations, imagery and icons should be consistent if the causes of inequities are to be widely understood.
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