Hidden Epidemics and Epidemiological Obfuscation [2021-22]

Alternate Tuesdays 12.00 – 14.00 during term time. *NB Only during MT 14:00 –16:00

Online sessions until further notice.


Epidemiological processes ostensibly exist to reveal and ascribe features to burdens of disease at a population level. However, as the designated arbiters of visibility in public health, epidemiological processes are well placed to also obscure and hide burdens of disease.

Epidemiological obfuscation can occur in many forms. At times it is overt, for example when the authoritative trappings of epidemiology (e.g., graphs, charts and spreadsheets) are wielded to deny the existence of an apparent burden of disease, be it a cholera outbreak in a politically sensitive part of Ethiopia, a cluster of cases of a rare cancer near a chemical waste plant in the United States, or a TB epidemic in residential schools in Canada. More often though, it appears that epidemiological obfuscation is subtle and unconscious. It comes about from choices baked into the daily practices of epidemiologists, modellers, and public health policy makers and occurs as part of larger material and political landscapes and in conjunction with other clinical, laboratory and, data collection processes. Understanding the various forms and circumstances of epidemiological obfuscation has important implications for biosecurity and social justice.

Hidden Epidemics is an interdisciplinary research network interested in characterising processes of epidemiological obfuscation and the situations in which they occur.

We invite researchers, public health practitioners, policy makers, patient activists, and anyone else with an interest in this area, to join us once a month to discuss various aspects of epidemiological obfuscation.



If you would like to receive notifications of upcoming Hidden Epidemics sessions and events, please contact: Liza Hadley
If you would like to suggest a speaker or have a topic or case study you would like to see discussed, please contact: Freya Jephcott

Administrative assistance: networks@crassh.cam.ac.uk



Freya Jephcott (Research Associate at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER), (medical anthropologist))
Charlotte Hammer (Everitt Butterfield Research Fellow at Downing College, (epidemiologist))
Liza Hadley (PhD candidate in infectious disease epidemiology in the Department of Veterinary Medicine, (mathematician))



Dr Freya Jephcott is a medical anthropologist and field epidemiologist. Freya’s work is primarily concerned with the effectiveness of outbreak response systems in resource-limited settings and their management in outbreaks of uncertain aetiology. In addition to her research, Freya also participates in applied and policy work on complex health emergencies with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).



Dr Charlotte Hammer is an applied infectious diseases epidemiologist. She completed her PhD in the Health Protection Research Unit for Emergency Preparedness and Response under the supervision of Professor Paul Hunter on outbreak risks in humanitarian emergencies. After her PhD she worked as an epidemiologist with the European Field Epidemiology Training Program, dividing her time between her duty station at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, the WHO headquarters in Geneva and the field. Charlotte’s current research focuses on the early detection and prevention of spillover-borne outbreaks of emerging zoonotic diseases.



Liza Hadley is a mathematical modeller and epidemiologist. Her current research examines the utility of mathematical modelling for outbreak response. Before starting her PhD at the University of Cambridge, Liza studied Mathematics at the University of Oxford, and then worked as a Research Assistant at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. At LSHTM, she worked in vaccine epidemiology, evaluating the impact and cost of one-dose vs two-dose HPV vaccination campaigns.


Faculty Advisors

Professor Christos Lynteris (Department of Social Anthropology, University of St Andrews)
Dr Olivier Restif (Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology, Cambridge Infectious Diseases)

Programme 2021-22

Lent Term 2022

Hidden Epidemics
Publishing practices and epidemiological obfuscation
25 January 2022, ONLINE SESSION (UK Time)

Boghuma Kabisen Titanji (Emory)

Cancer and epidemiological obfuscation
08 February 2022, ONLINE SESSION (UK Time)

Carlo Caduff (KCL), Ruth Prince (Oslo)

Hidden Epidemics TBC
22 February 2022, ONLINE SESSION (UK Time)
Pathogen persistence and epidemiological obfuscation
08 March 2022, ONLINE SESSION (UK Time)

James Fairhead (Sussex), Genese Sodikoff (Newark)


Michaelmas Term 2021

Hidden Epidemics
Surveillance Systems and Epidemiological Obfuscation
12 October 2021, Online event (UK time)

Charlotte Hammer (Cambridge), Freya Jephcott (Cambridge)

Diagnostic Tests and Epidemiological Obfuscation
26 October 2021, Online event (UK time)

Alice Street (Edinburgh), Ritti Soncco (Edinburgh), Aphaluck Bhatiasevi (Edinburgh).

Demographics (Gender) And Epidemiological Obfuscation
09 November 2021, Online event (UK time)

Hillary Ash (Pittsburgh)

Framings and Foci in Epidemiological Obfuscation
23 November 2021, Online event (UK time)

Noemi Tousignant (UCL),  Branwyn Poleykett (Amsterdam)