Diseases and Societies                                                                             Dr. Mark D. Hardt

Soc 352                                                                                                  MSU-Billings

TTH 2:00-3:30                                                                                        Fall 2009


Office: LA 814

Phone: 657-2991

Office Hours: MWF 11:45-12:45

                       TTH 12:15-1:15 and by appointment


email: mhardt@msubillings.edu

web page: http://www.msubillings.edu/CASFaculty/hardt


Texts: Diamond, Jared.  Hart, Tony.  2004.  Mircroterrors: The Complete Guide to Bacterial, Viral and Fungal Infections that threaten our Health.  Firefly Books. 


This course explores the interactions between diseases and societies, historically, and contemporarily.  Human progress in confronting disease, for much of our history, was slow and fraught with many setbacks.  In this kind of milieu people were acutely aware of  their dependence on and vulnerability to their environment.  More recently, however, progress was made, not only in confronting disease but in controlling disease.  Since the end of World War II this progress has been remarkable, with many diseases seemingly being conqured.  This has resulted in many benefits that we take for granted: we not only live longer, we live qualitatively better.  If there is a problem with this progress it is that  we come to expect medication and medical technology to help us.  There is a downside to this advance in out interactions with disease that, I contend, is little appreciated and which may come back to haunt us.  Unlike many of our ancestors modern humans—in particular in more developed countries of the world—have forgotten our position and dependence on the environment.  We especially have forgotten our vulnerability to our environment, mistakenly assuming that we are at the top of, not a part of, the web of life.


The course will begin by providing you with a framework for understanding the role diseases have had in shaping society.  Much of this framework will examine the history of humans’ relationship with diseases.  We will then shift to a closer examination of specific diseases.  The course will end by anticipating what the future may hold, especially given the modern assumption that we are masters of disease, and how that may haunt us. 


The format of the course includes lecture and group discussion.  Failure to participate in class discussion will result in a 25 percent reduction of your final grade.  There will be two exams.  The first will be after discussion of the history of disease.  This will be followed by class presentation/discussion of course assignments during the second third of the workshop.  The second exam will be at the end of the semester and will cover the latter two thirds of the semester.  You will be informed in advance when exams will take place.  You will select a disease organism from the Hart text and do an in-depth analysis of the social-biological interactions.  Your analysis will be written in an eight to ten page paper, and you will present an in-class synopsis of your findings during the last week of the semester.


         To minimize disruptions to the class, I generally arrive to classroom about five minutes after the start of class.  After that time the door will be closed and locked.  You may not be able to enter the class after the door is closed.




Course Schedule




Establishing the Framework


Epidemiology: The Study of Disease

Epidemiological Transition Theory

            Reading on-line.

A history of Societal-Disease Interactions

            McNeill, Plagues and Peoples.



A Closer Look at Diseases, Old and New




Small Pox




West Nile


            Hart, Micro-Terrors.

           Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel.



Anticipating the Future


Health Care in the United States

Epidemiological Transition Theory revisited

            Farmer, Infections and Inequalities.