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International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

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Social epistemology, Social integration, Participant observation, Information technology


Social epidemiology has made critical contributions to understanding population health. However, translation of social epidemiology science into action remains a challenge, raising concerns about the impacts of the field beyond academia. With so much focus on issues related to social position, discrimination, racism, power, and privilege, there has been surprisingly little deliberation about the extent and value of social inclusion and equity within the field itself. Indeed, the challenge of translation/action might be more readily met through re-envisioning the role of the people within the research/practice enterprise—reimagining what “social” could, or even should, mean for the future of the field. A potential path forward rests at the nexus of social epidemiology, community-based participatory research (CBPR), and information and communication technology (ICT). Here, we draw from social epidemiology, CBPR, and ICT literatures to introduce A People’s Social Epi—a multi-tiered framework for guiding social epidemiology in becoming more inclusive, equitable, and actionable for 21st century practice. In presenting this framework, we suggest the value of taking participatory, collaborative approaches anchored in CBPR and ICT principles and technological affordances—especially within the context of place-based and environmental research. We believe that such approaches present opportunities to create a social epidemiology that is of, with, and by the people—not simply about them. In this spirit, we suggest 10 ICT tools to “socialize” social epidemiology and outline 10 ways to move towards A People’s Social Epi in practice.


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© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


A version of this paper was previously published as part of one of the authors’ (R.P.) doctoral dissertation: “Towards a People’s Social Epidemiology: An Intergenerational Study of Place, Embodiment, and Health via Participatory Action Research with Residents of Public Housing,” UC Berkeley, 2016.



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