Source: UCLA Public Health, June 2003, p. 32.
A Web site launched by a faculty member in the school's Department of Epidemiology has rekindled interest in a 19th-century public health icon, provided a popular repository for epidemiologic information on bioterrorism, and, in doing so, brought considerable attention to the school.
The Department of Epidemiology site (www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/) is now receiving 4 million to 5 million hits per year, according to Dr. Ralph Frerichs, professor of epidemiology and creator of the site. The most popular section focuses on John Snow, the famed physician who addressed London's deadly cholera epidemic in 1854 with the removal of a pump handle that he found to be the culprit. Snow had previously argued that several diseases thought to be spread through the air, including cholera, were actually transmitted through drinking water, but his ideas had been mostly ignored.
The Snow site (www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/snow.html) includes multiple layers of information that enable users to dig deeply into Snow's background, pursue the facts surrounding his investigation of the 1854 epidemic and locate key sites on a detailed period map of London, with relevant events tied to particular locations. It also includes links to present-day information on cholera and the London Epidemiological Society, founded by Snow; a photographic tour of Snow's London; and a peek at the John Snow Pub. "I was disturbed that in public health, there were no heroes recognized by the general public," Frerichs says of his decision to create the site. "John Snow, a leading figure in our field, was commemorated not with a museum but with the name of a London pub."
Frerichs established the bioterrorism site (www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/bioter/ bioterrorism.html) in response to Sept. 11 and the anthrax attacks that followed. The site, intended for both health professionals and the general public, includes news-media articles on potential biological weapons, viewed through an epidemiologic and public health context.
In addition to appealing to public health professionals, the sites help to create interest in the field among young people, Frerichs says. "This is an enormously inexpensive modality for information-sharing and recruitment," he adds. "It's a place where people can get information about public health and, at the same time, see that UCLA is where they can come to learn more."