Why have an Epidemiology Education Movement?

Epidemiology is the science that explores the patterns and causes of health and disease events in populations. It is often called the science of public health. Learning about epidemiology has many advantages for younger students. For example, it can give them tools with which to make informed lifestyle and societal choices that affect their health and that of others. Learning about the sleuthing of epidemiology can also build scientific literacy by encouraging students to scientifically explore questions that are of interest to their age group. And for some, epidemiology can influence choices of future science courses and careers in health and public health science.

At present, access to learning about epidemiology is largely restricted to adult students in graduate programs in public health and medicine, and to a lesser but growing number of undergraduate programs. By comparison, few 6-12 grade students have been exposed to epidemiology. We have seen how younger students become excited and challenged about learning epidemiology. They respond to interesting questions about health issues that are relevant to their lives, and to the rich opportunities that epidemiology provides to test their analytical, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills.

What is the Epidemiology Education Movement? Begun in 2005, it is a grass roots effort among a small but growing number of people with a personal passion and professional interest in integrating epidemiology and other public health science into elementary and secondary schools. The Movement is based on two main ideas:

If we define education as something that prepares people to live in their world, it should include giving people tools with which to make informed lifestyle and societal decisions that affect their health.

If people with common interests in grade 6-12 epidemiology education are aware of each other’s activities, we will progress more quickly to critical mass and significant change.

To bring together common efforts to this end, we have created this website as a communications venue for teachers, public health professionals and organizations involved in the Movement. The goals include:

1) Infusing epidemiology into curricula in grades 6-12;
2) Increasing students’ scientific literacy; and
3) Increasing the number of students considering careers in public health.

See the next tab for the concept map of the Movement’s goals and five-point Framework for Action. The rest of the website includes links to the efforts of many people, to reports of progress and milestones, and to fit-for-purpose teaching materials and other information developed to progress the Epidemiology Education Movement.