Watch the Microbes and Social Equity seminar from Feb 17th

Extended Health

Dr. Joshua August (Gus) Skorburg, PhD

February 17, 2021, 12:00 – 13:00 EST. 

Watch the recording.

About the speaker: Dr. Joshua August (Gus) Skorburg is Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Academic Co-Director of the Centre for Advancing Responsible and Ethical Artificial Intelligence (CARE-AI), and Faculty Affiliate at the One Health Institute at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. He is also Adjunct Professor in the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. He received his PhD in Philosophy in 2017 from the University of Oregon. His research spans topics in applied ethics and moral psychology.

About the seminar:  Dominant views about the nature of health and disease tend to assume the existence of a fixed, stable, individual organism as the bearer of health and disease states, and as such, the appropriate target of medical therapy and ethical concern. However, recent developments in microbial biology, neuroscience, and social and personality psychology have produced a novel understanding of the individual and its fluid boundaries. Drawing on converging evidence from these disciplines, I will argue that certain features of our biological and social environment can be so tightly integrated as to constitute a unit of care extending beyond the intuitive boundaries of skin and skull. Call this the Hypothesis of Extended Health (HEH). Using the example of obesity as a case study, I show how HEH is well positioned to accommodate recent research on both the human microbiome and relationship partners. I conclude by suggesting that HEH helps us to break free from unhelpful dichotomous thinking about obesity – between individual behaviours (e.g., restraint, diet, exercise) or constraining socio-economic structures (e.g., food deserts, advertising).

About the series: Microorganisms are critical to many aspects of biological life, including human health.  The human body is a veritable universe for microorganisms: some pass through but once, some are frequent tourists, and some spend their entire existence in the confines of our body tissues.  The collective microbial community, our microbiome, can be impacted by the details of our lifestyle, including diet, hygiene, health status, and more, but many are driven by social, economic, medical, or political constraints that restrict available choices that may impact our health.   

Access to resources is the basis for creating and resolving social equity—access to healthcare, healthy foods, a suitable living environment, and to beneficial microorganisms, but also access to personal and occupational protection to avoid exposure to infectious disease. This speaker series explores the way that microbes connect public policy, social disparities, and human health, as well as the ongoing research, education, policy, and innovation in this field.  The spring speaker series will pave the way for a symposium on “Microbes, Social Equity, and Rural Health” in summer 2021.

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