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In Rotary’s ad campaign a few years ago, people from Desmond Tutu to Jackie Chan were showing with their hands how close to the end of polio we are. There was even a Gangnam Style version of the ad. The message was that the end is in sight, we are very close and need just one last push to end the disease targeted by a global eradication program. The ad looks great. You stop and look, perhaps even open your purse to contribute to the cause. But at the same time it is also terribly disturbing: what are these people showing us? What is, exactly, the end of polio? And what comes after? Upon closer inspection, these images open broader questions of how we think about epidemics, disease and ‘solving’ a public health problem.
The way we tend to think about diseases, especially in policy-making and in their representations, is within a narrative that comes from epidemics. We talk about an “epidemic” of obesity, of cancer, and further health concerns “plague” our society. Therefore, while various diseases bring up a wide range of different problems to consider, it is important to give epidemics and their narratives a closer look. Using the case of polio eradication in Hungary, I interrogate the ending of an epidemic and place the ‘after’ into the center of analysis. I argue that with this analytical shift, we can gain a more nuanced understanding of what epidemics are, the how we might study them and who and what gets left out of the master narrative of beginning, crisis and end. A focus on endings also highlights the narrative’s shortcomings and the stakes at hand, as epidemic narratives shape global and local health policies.

Forthcoming events

Ethox/WEH Seminar - Regulation of AI in healthcare: what should we expect?

Wednesday, 28 August 2019, 11am to 12.30pm @ Seminar room 0, BDI, Old Road Campus, OX3 7LF

Ethox/WEH Seminar - Genomic secondary findings in inherited heart conditions: a recall by genotype study

Wednesday, 04 September 2019, 11am to 12.30pm @ Seminar room 0, BDI, Old Road Campus, OX3 7LF

Oxford Open Doors

Saturday, 14 September 2019, 12.30pm to 4pm

The Nuffield Department of Population Health will be open to the public as part of this year's Open Doors event. Find out how medical researchers use big data to answer important questions about human health around the world.

Pharmaceutical policies in the long run: reflections on 60th anniversary of the Hinchliffe Report

Monday, 11 November 2019, 9.30am to 5pm @ Merton College, Merton Street Oxford, OX1 4JD

Designing and Running Streamlined Randomized Trials

Monday, 13 January 2020 to Tuesday, 14 January 2020, 9.30am - 5pm