Monday, March 21, 2016

Definition and Scope of Epidemilogy

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The word epidemiology is derived from the Greek words epi, meaning "upon, among", demos, meaning "people, district", and logos, meaning "study, word, discourse"
Wikipedia: Epidemiology is the study and analysis of the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations. It is the cornerstone of public health, and shapes policy decisions and evidence-based practice by identifying risk factors for disease and targets for preventive healthcare.
Epidemiology as defined by Last is “ the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events in specified populations, and the application of this study to the prevention and control of health problems”
Major areas of epidemiological study include disease etiology (the study of causation, or origination), transmission, outbreak investigation, disease surveillance and screening ( in medicine, a strategy used in a population to identify the possible presence of an as-yet-undiagnosed disease in individuals without signs or symptoms ), biomonitoring, and comparisons of treatment effects such as in clinical trials.
Epidemiologists rely on other scientific disciplines like biology to better understand disease processes, statistics to make efficient use of the data and draw appropriate conclusions, social sciences to better understand proximate and distal causes, and engineering for exposure assessment. [2]
Scope :
A focus of an epidemiological study is the population defined in geographical or other terms; for example, a specific group of hospital patients or factory workers could be the unit of study. A common population used in epidemiology is one selected from a specific area or country at a specific time. This forms the base for defining subgroups with respect to sex, age group or ethnicity. The structures of populations vary between geographical areas and time periods. Epidemiological analyses must take such variation into account. [1]
Epidemiologists study variations of disease in relation to such factors as age, sex, race, occupational and social characteristics, place of residence, susceptibility, exposure to specific agents, or other pertinent characteristics.
Also of concern are the temporal distribution of disease, examination of trends, cyclical patterns, and intervals between exposure to causative factors and onset of disease. The scope of the field extends from study of the patterns of disease to the causes of disease and to the control or prevention of disease. What distinguishes epidemiology from other clinical sciences is the focus on health problems in population groups rather than in individuals. [3]
The range of activities that may be at least partly epidemiologic includes determination of the health needs of populations, investigation and control of disease outbreaks, study of environmental and industrial hazards, evaluation of preventive or curative programs or treatments, and evaluation of the effectiveness and efficiency of intervention or control strategies. Many tools of epidemiology are borrowed from other fields such as microbiology, immunology, medicine, statistics, demography, and medical geography.
There is a growing core of purely epidemiologic methodology that includes not only statistical methodology and principles of study design, but a unique way of thinking that is beyond the rote memorization of rules. [3]
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