Tamara Awerbuch, Ph.D.

Department of Global Health and Population
Harvard School of Public Health
Email: tamara@hsph.harvard.edu Discipline: Public Health Expertise: Health Risks

Investigator Award
Why New and Resurgent Infectious Diseases Caught Public Health by Surprise and a Strategy to Prevent This
Award Year: 1995 This study investigates why the public health community was caught by surprise by the resurgence of diseases that were in decline such as malaria, TB, cholera and rabies, and the appearance of apparently new diseases including AIDS, legionnaire's disease, hantavirus, and Lyme disease. It looks at the results of: fragmentation of knowledge among disciplines; isolation of evolutionary ecology and social science from public health; the urgency to meet immediate human need; and institutional and philosophical biases in setting research priorities. A review determines the overlap in public health journals with ecology, biogeography, population genetics, veterinary and plant pathology literature. An analysis of health programs identifies major gaps in the epidemiology framework due to the prevailing fragmentation of knowledge. Several integrative case studies are developed for particular diseases, and a research and educational strategy for an integrative epidemiology is proposed.


Tamara Awerbuch is an instructor in the department of global health and population at Harvard School of Public Health. She is a health scientist and biomathematician whose main interests focus on bio-social interactions that cause disease. For the last decade she has been conducting research on the conditions that lead to the emergence, maintenance, and spread of epidemics. Her research encompasses sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS, as well as vector-borne diseases such as malaria and Lyme disease. Recently, she also did work on the spread and control of rabies based on an eco-historical analysis. Her work is interdisciplinary and her publications are co-authored with members of different departments at HSPH. Awerbuch received her Ph.D. from MIT.