Human factors, including contact structure, movement, impact on the environment and patterns of behaviour, can have significant influence on the emergence of novel infectious diseases and the transmission and amplification of established ones. As anthropogenic climate change alters natural systems and global economic forces drive land-use and land-cover change, it becomes increasingly important to understand both the ecological and social factors that impact infectious disease outcomes for human populations. While the field of disease ecology explicitly studies the ecological aspects of infectious disease transmission, the effects of the social context on zoonotic pathogen spillover and subsequent human-to-human transmission are comparatively neglected in the literature. The social sciences encompass a variety of disciplines and frameworks for understanding infectious diseases; however, here we focus on four primary areas of social systems that quantitatively and qualitatively contribute to infectious diseases as social–ecological systems. These areas are social mixing and structure, space and mobility, geography and environmental impact, and behaviour and behaviour change. Incorporation of these social factors requires empirical studies for parametrization, phenomena characterization and integrated theoretical modelling of social–ecological interactions. The social–ecological system that dictates infectious disease dynamics is a complex system rich in interacting variables with dynamically significant heterogeneous properties. Future discussions about infectious disease spillover and transmission in human populations need to address the social context that affects particular disease systems by identifying and measuring qualitatively important drivers.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Opening the black box: re-examining the ecology and evolution of parasite transmission’.
One contribution of 16 to a theme issue ‘Opening the black box: re-examining the ecology and evolution of parasite transmission’.
- Accepted November 22, 2016.
- © 2017 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.