On Thursday, Sept 6th, Professor Randall Packard spoke at the conference entitled “Africa and the Epidemiological Imagination” at the University College London.

For more information about the workshop, please see below or click here.

The IAS is delighted to host this Multidisciplinary Workshop Sponsored by the Wellcome Trust.

Over the past two decades, chronic health conditions, such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, diabetes, cancer, liver and renal diseases, as well as mental health disorders, have become increasingly visible on the African continent. Whether it is a local newspaper in Kampala or Accra or a critical report from the World Health Organization, the explanation for this increase in chronic diseases is often attributed to wealth and “lifestyle choices,” and an epidemiological transition. First put forward by Abdul Omran in 1971, this theory was an attempt to spell out the consequences of the extraordinary advances in health status made in industrialized countries since the eighteenth century. Omran posited that all societies would move through three stages, from a regime dominated by pestilence and famine, characterized by high and fluctuating mortality and low life expectancy, through an age of receding pandemics to one dominated by degenerative and man-made disease. The idea that Africa is the last continent to undergo the “transition” to a “modern” epidemiological regime still underlies much of the health policy literature and the messages being conveyed to African patients, despite the many the existence of many critiques of Omran’s theory.

In this workshop, our aim is to bring historians and social scientists into conversation with epidemiologists and public health policy officials who are making knowledge and policy about the chronic disease epidemic on the continent. We ask: what is the utility of “transition” as a way to theorize, describe, and explain the increasingly visible chronic disease burden on the continent? What are the strategies for rethinking temporalities of transition on the African continent? How do we bring “transitions”—political, economic, epidemiological – into the same frame of analysis? Other core questions include: What new theoretical tools are historians and public health colleagues using to move beyond the theory of epidemiological transitions? What are the challenges we face in making knowledge about the emergence of a chronic disease epidemic on the continent? And lastly, what can historians and social scientists and epidemiologists, clinicians, and public health policy makers learn from one another in a time of increasing urgency as patients seek relief for chronic conditions and African health practitioners strive to provide that care?


Revisiting ‘epidemiological transition’ theory from the vantage point of the ‘global south’.
Epidemiological methods and data collection: case studies from sub-Saharan Africa.
Developmental origins, epigenetics and alternative temporalities.
“Lifestyle diseases”, food, nutrition, environment and global systems.
Chronic conditions and the challenges of care.
Confirmed Speakers Include:

Kafui Adjaye-Gbewonyo, University College London
Betsey Brada, Reed College
Branwyn Poleykett, University of Cambridge
Catherine Burns, University of Pretoria
Ama de-Graft Aikins, University of Ghana
Shane Doyle, Leeds University
Marissa Mika, University College London
Amy Moran Thomas, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Tolu Oni, University of Cambridge
Jackson Orem, Uganda Cancer Institute
Randall Packard, Johns Hopkins University
Michelle Pentecost, Oxford University
Ruth Prince, University of Oslo
David Reubi, King’s College London
Olutobi Sanuade, University College London
Kavita Sivaramakrishnan, Columbia University
Simon Szreter, University of Cambridge
Megan Vaughan, University College London
Emily Yates Doerr, University of Amsterdam and Oregon State University
For information on the larger project of which this workshop is part see: www.chronicdiseaseafrica.org