Invited commentary: On the future of social epidemiology--a case for scientific realism

Am J Epidemiol. 2013 Sep 15;178(6):852-7. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwt143. Epub 2013 Sep 5.


In their article in this issue of the Journal (Am J Epidemiol. 2013;178(6):843-849), Galea and Link identify important heuristics for our discipline. In this commentary, I build upon their ideas by arguing that (1) social epidemiology has become an Asian, European, Latin American, and African rather than just North American endeavor, (2) realism is better suited to social epidemiology than positivism, (3) more work on social mechanisms (social class relations, racial discrimination) is needed to increase the explanatory power of social epidemiology, (4) increased attention on (social) causal models will generate more innovative social interventions, and (5) social interventions should be conducted in full partnerships with affected populations.

Keywords: causality; epistemology; global health; history of epidemiology; philosophy of science; race; social class; social epidemiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Epidemiology / standards*
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Social Environment*
  • Sociology, Medical / standards*