WRITING 101: Preventing Pandemics

Fall 2024

Instructor: Miranda Welsh

Where are new outbreaks most likely to occur and why? What ecological, sociopolitical and cultural factors contribute to differences across locales in disease emergence, spread and our capacity to respond? How have our dominant understandings or narratives of disease shaped our response and preparedness efforts to date?

In the first third of this course, students will use an interdisciplinary case study of a single epidemic to examine these questions via guided readings, writings and small-group discussions.

In the second two-thirds of the course, students will use their developing interests to form a three-person research team. Throughout the rest of the course, each team will collaborate to research a contemporary epidemic (e.g., cholera, Zika, SARS) and compose a review and synthesis paper about that epidemic. The paper will summarize the epidemic from the perspectives of epidemiology and public health and then present three additional narratives of the epidemic, each from a different discipline:

  1. Ecological: how specific human-environment interactions encourage outbreaks (e.g., climate change, deforestation, agricultural practices)
  2. Cultural/anthropological: how beliefs, values, norms or customs (e.g., stigmas, taboos, medical traditions) encourage outbreaks, as do culturally inappropriate interventions
  3. Political/economic: how specific characteristics of states and sociopolitical systems encourage outbreaks (e.g., by increasing poverty or inequality, by decreasing security or stability)