Tag Archives: infectious disease

Social Ecology of Immunization and Infectious Diseases

Vaccines are very useful as preventive medicine in public health to reduce morbidity and mortality due to communicable diseases, though they are not a substitute to safe drinking water, sanitation, nutrition and environmental health in the long run.
(Madhavi et al., 2010, p. 618)

In dealing with infectious diseases, two primary methods of prevention are worthwhile: immunization and avoidance. Avoidance is nearly impossible as valence for various pathogens vary so greatly and community network structure influences (Ciccaroneet al., 2010; Salathé & Jones, 2010). Immunization, on the other hand, allows for proximal contact with a specific pathogen without the likelihood to effective transmission, or active infection. Immunization, or innoculation, is the process of introducing the immune system to potential future pathogens so that it may form lifelong antibodies that can readily attack the pathogen if infected in the future (Centers for Disease Control, 2009). Immunization is gaining stronger support in the face of a growing number of antibiotic-resistant pathogens and pathogens with a propensity for recombination under heavy environmentally selective pressures, and though antibiotic therapy is a reliable and effective secondary prevention method, it seems to be true that antibiotic therapy is becoming less effective the more we rely on it as a prophylaxis (Laxminarayan & Brown, 2001). Additionally, antibiotics are only effective in the treatment of bacterial infections and have no effect on viral infections. Antiviral medications are typically more expensive and less available.

Luckily, when speaking about infectious processes, there is little need for continuous care after the acute presentation (Ciccarone et al., 2010). The pathogen is typically eradicated from the host by means of the natural combative effects of the immune system in combination, when required, with pharmacological assistance, and there is only a small chance of the host suffering any lasting effects. Unfortunately, there are some pathogens that continue to cause harm well after the acute phase of infection. Pathogens, such as the human immunodeficiency virus, ravage the immune system making the host susceptible to a number of other opportunistic infections that can become life-threatening. Other pathogens, such as hepatitis, can damage the natural filtration system of the host’s body that other deleterious effects surface creating a chronic disease process of the organs. In these, and other, cases, tertiary prevention strategies can help to offer the host a meaningful quality of life with the presence of the disease process. Some effective tertiary methods include medications aimed at improving the function of certain organs or systems. Diet and exercise also plays a major role in tertiary prevention strategies (Stokols, 1992).

Depending on the particular pathogen, infection might not affect me as much as others. As a paramedic, I have a comfortable knowledge of infectious disease processes, and I understand that a simple regimen of antibiotic medication, along with rest and fluid intake, will cure most of the infectious bacterial diseases that I might face, albeit some drug-resistant pathogens are not so easy to manage. Additionally, I have isolation equipment at my disposal that allows me to create a barrier from these and other infectious diseases. Ciccarone et al. (2010) further describe many of the psychosocial barriers Asian and Pacific Islanders face when confronted with the early stages of some infections. “Psychosocial issues such as depression, embarrassment, and shyness were reported to have influenced time to seeking medical attention” (Ciccarone et al., 2010, p. 143). Although I accept that I may suffer one or more of these barriers, my education, along with mandatory workplace reporting requirements, empower me to seek medical care when needed.

Addressing prevention strategies, Stokols (1992) introduces a model using the social ecology of health. Though he does not categorize primary, secondary, and tertiary means, he does hint at prevention strategies being proximal or distal. Further, Stokols outlines a variety of means related directly to an understanding of environmental roles and pressures. Understanding how an individual relates to, from, and within his or her ecology allows the health practitioner to provide more focused means of prevention and education.


Centers for Disease Control. (2009). Parent’s Guide to Immunizations [Excerpt]. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/downloads/pg_how_vacc_work.pdf

Ciccarone, R. M., Kim, M., Tice, A. D., Nakata, M., Effler, P., Jernigan, D. B., … & Sinkowitz-Cochran, R. L. (2010). Prevention of community-associated methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus infection among Asian/Pacific Islanders: A qualitative assessment. Hawai‘i Medical Journal, 69(6), 142-144. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/

Laxminarayan, R. & Brown, G. M. (2001). Economics of antibiotic resistance: A theory of optimal use. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 42(2), 183-206. doi:10.1006/jeem.2000.1156

Madhavi, Y., Puliyel, J. M., Mathew, J. L., Raghuram, N., Phadke, A., Shiva, M., … & Banerji, D. (2010). Evidence-based national vaccine policy. Indian Journal of Medical Research, 131, 617-628. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/

Salathé, M. & Jones, J. H. (2010). Dynamics and control of diseases in networks with community structure. PLoS Computational Biology, 6(4), e1000736. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000736

Stokols, D. (1992). Establishing and maintaining healthy environments: Toward a social ecology of health promotion. American Psychologist, 47(1), 6-22. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.47.1.6