My friend the epidemiologist

When my friend Matt became an epidemiologist, my first thought (and I’m not proud of this) was how does this benefit me? Actually, that was my second thought. My first thought was: What is epidemiology and what does an epidemiologist do? I found the explanation very long and somewhat incomprehensible for my 21st century attention span. I think it would have perplexed a 19th century attention span. And they had a lot more time to think about stuff back then. So, I asked for the watered-down version.

The best he could do was: “Epidemiology is the study of the distribution and determinants of states of health in populations.” Not that helpful, but, to be fair, I shouldn’t expect him to distill his life’s work into some simplistic sound bite for my ignorant benefit. 

And the job description? As far as I could tell, they count dead people. “And sick people too.” OK, they count dead and sick people. “But it’s much more than that.” My friend was now exasperated with me and, frankly, I was a little frustrated myself. After all, what good is knowing an expert if you can’t get a few inside tips. So, I came clean. “You want some tips. That, I can give you.” Finally, something I can use.

At the risk of providing naive fodder for humor that kills at a future epidemiology conference, I am willing to share this expert advice.

5 tips for staying healthy: a social epidemiology approach

1. Don’t be poor. If you can, stop. If you can’t, try not to be poor for too long.

2. Don’t have poor parents.

3. Don’t live in a poor neighborhood.

4. Practice not losing your job and don’t become unemployed.

5. Own a car —  especially if you live in a hurricane-prone city.


M. A. Duca is a resident of Twin Lakes narrowly focused on everyday life.