In general, the premise of epidemiology is that a collection of individual responses speaks for the population’s need. Rightfully, this premise places data at the foundation of public health: the field is grounded in the generations of data produced from our public health research. Data hold the undeniable power to elucidate need and to shape rhetoric, both of which ultimately seek to reduce the burden of disease in the population studied. Yet despite the validity of data, global health machinery often continues to struggle with the very basics of solving our most pressing public health issues; our innovated successes are tempered with the seemingly persistent failures in basic public health concepts. This is in part because epidemiology, by its very nature, looks at successes and failures in global health as a fluctuation of data.
But every number has a story.
Without being reminded of the human component from which our data were derived, the global health community will continue to be unable to bring about the full potential of our data. Through the novel blending of storytelling and data, Visual Approaches to Global Health at Yale University teaches students in global health to reconnect such humanity while maintaining traditional academic rigor.
The course explores the intersection between public health and visual media, where students learn to analyze global health issues through the prism of film and media. Students learn to understand global health and filmmaking not simply as a representative medium, but through the use of aesthetics and emotional narratives that reach a level of professionalism both as academic scholarship and as works of art.
In 2019, the course is offered as a study abroad course in Mbabane, Swaziland and Johannesburg, South Africa.