GEOG 380

Geographical Patterns of Health

Spring 2012

Dr. Jonathan Mayer

Lecture: Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:30-6:20, Smith Hall, Room 120

Sections: as listed on your registration schedule. 


Dr. Jonathan D. Mayer,

Professor, Departments of Epidemiology, Geography, Internal Medicine (Infectious Diseases), Global Health, Health Services, and Family Medicine;

Tel: (206) 543-7110, Offices:  Health Sci F-259 and Smith 412-C


Office hours: by appointment. If requesting an appointment via email, please send your request to both, and

Please do not sent these to my regular email



Skye Naslund

Dena Aufseeser

Listproc (mailman) for course: (please remember, for your own privacy, that anything posted to the listproc will go to everybody in the class. This has proven to be an embarrassment to some people in the past, so be cautious!)

A word on academic honesty and integrity is in order. We will adhere strictly to the rules of the University of Washington and the academic community in prohibiting plagiarism, cheating, and academic dishonesty. These provisions are spelled out in detail at the following website, with which all students are expected to be familiar. Each year in this class, several cases of cheating and plagiarism, unfortunately, are discovered. To prevent this, you must read the contents of the following website:


We assume that each and every student is familiar with the contents of this web page. No excuses will be accepted for academic dishonesty. Be very careful; there is no tolerance for dishonesty in this class.

By submitting a piece of written work for the course, we assume that you have read the webpage above, are familiar with the University’s policies on academic honesty, and agree to abide by them. Thus, no excuses for plagiarism or cheating will be accepted.



Everybody is expected to subscribe to ProMED (Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases) at, “subscribe” on the upper left. We will talk about relevant postings.

You should check the first box, or, if you prefer just one or two bulletins per day, you should check ProMED-digest, which is the second box. We will discuss at least one or two of the bulletins each week in lecture.

The following books are required for the course. We will talk about relevant readings at the beginning of each class.

Madeleine Drexler, Emerging Epidemics: The Menace of New Infections. New York: Penguin Books, 2002, 2003 (afterword).

Nathan Wolfe, The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age. New York: Times Books, 2011.

Jacques Pepin, The Origins of AIDS. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Robert S. Desowitz, Federal Bodysnatchers and the New Guinea Virus: Tales of Parasites, People, and Politics. New York: WW Norton, 2002.

Optional: The following may be acquired at several local bookstores, and from the major online vendors. David L. Heymann, ed. Control of Communicable Disease Manual, 19th edition. Washington: American Public Health Association Press, 2009. This book is a very valuable reference, and you are encouraged to read about each disease in this handbook.


Details will be discussed in quiz section on Thursday. Grades will be based on the following assignments:

Quiz section (20%)

Poster presentation—done in quiz section (25% of total grade)

Research proposal—done in quiz section (25% of total grade)

Take-home final exam (30% of total). This will be emailed to the class list on Wednesday, May 30th, and it will be due by 5 PM on Tuesday, June 5.

Details will be discussed in your first quiz sections.

There are NO makeup assignments, and NO extra credit.

Course rationale:

Health and disease are not only medical issues, but they are also social, environmental, and geographical phenomena. People and groups must always live in the contexts and constraints of the world that is extraneous to them. Disease is also a major world problem. Both infectious and non-infectious diseases have social causes, in part, and also influence societies. This course sets disease and health within the framework of human-environment interaction.

Course goals and objectives:

The major goal of this course is to introduce students to geographical approaches to health and disease, particularly within the setting of human-environment interactions. Included in this are the roles of culture, behavior, and politics. We will cover many specific diseases, but in addition to their inherent interest, each is prototypical of one or more aspects of environmental equilibrium and disequilibrium. To do this, though, one must also have a solid background in the basic scientific and epidemiologic characteristics and determinants of disease.

My educational beliefs:


Students are inherently curious and seek to understand the world surrounding them and the world in which they live. These courses, and my teaching, are both aimed at encouraging the critical analysis of the human-health-environment relationships. This understanding and analysis must come from a solid knowledge of the factual, scientific, and conceptual bases from which such understanding and thinking must come. Some students will find that this course will contribute directly to their professional development, while others will find that it provides a basis for understanding issues of health and disease as citizens in a democratic society, in which we can all help to determine the course of society. My own role in this course will be multifaceted. Sometimes I will serve as an authority on the subjects that we will cover. At other times, I will be a facilitator of inquiry and debate. I hope that I will always be a resource for your own interests and investigations as we proceed through the course.


Week of March 26

Introduction to course and basic concepts

In-class film: Contagion

Reading: Wolfe, ch. 1-6


Week of April 2

Emerging infectious diseases

Definitions, examples, and ways of thinking

Role of the environment

Why are emerging diseases emerging now?  From history to molecule

Reading: Wolfe, ch. 7-12; Drexler, ch. 1-3

Week of April 9

Modeling infectious disease

Examples of emerging infections: Lyme disease, West Nile, SARS, and influenza

Reading: Drexler, ch. 4-8

Week of April 16

Neglected Tropical Diseases and “The Bottom Billion”


Reading: Desowitz, Introduction-ch. 5.

Week of April 23

Our “old friends”: Old diseases in a new context

Reading: Desowitz, ch. 6-10.

Week of April 30

HIV/AIDS: The essential emerging disease

What is HIV?

Poverty, people, biology

Reading: Pepin, ch. 1-4

Week of May 7

Origins and spread of HIV: from molecular epidemiology to maps

Reading: Pepin, ch. 5-7 and ch. 12, 13

Week of May 14 and on May 21

Reading: Pepin ch. 8-11

Prevention and treatment of HIV: Programs that work, and programs that flop



Week of May 21

Prevention and treatment of HIV (continued, May 21)

Tuberculosis (TB): Epidemiology, Geography, and Social Influences (May 23)

Reading: To be announced from recently published articles

Week of May 28: Memorial Day on May 28; no class. Last lecture on May 30. Official end of classes: Friday, June 1.

May 30 (Wed): Continuation of TB discussion

Reading: To be announced from very recent articles