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Epidemiology and a sense of place
  1. John R Ashton

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    “My books are always about living in places, not just rushing through them. As we get to know Europe slowly, tasting the wines, cheeses, and characters of different countries you begin to realize that the important determinant of any culture is after all … the spirit of place. Just as one particular vineyard will always give you a special wine with discernible characteristics so a Spain, an Italy, a Greece will always give you the same type of culture … will express itself through the human beings just as it does through its wild flowers”(Lawrence Durrell, New York Times Magazine, 12 June 1960)

    As one of the major disciplines underpinning the study of public health, epidemiology concerns itself with the analysis of time, place, and person. Durrell’s beautiful insight can make our epidemiological teaching seem one dimensional. If we are to unpack the epidemiological study of place we need help from the social sciences, anthropology, and not least from personal narrative. We also must embrace the interrelationship between humans and environment which is our habitat.