This introductory chapter begins with a discussion of the three issues addressed in this book: (i) the way inherited ideas about industrial growth, economic expansion, social change, and causes of disease have shaped explanations of the health of populations; (ii) the ways in which these inherited ideas have become assimilated to political ideologies that influence how epidemiologic and demographic data are understood, causal inferences made, anomalies ignored, and abstractions drawn; and (iii) the importance of understanding the social context of the populations whose health we study and hope to improve. It then considers two revolutions that have shaped the ways in which the health of populations is usually understood. An overview of the two parts of the book is presented.
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