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PUB-540: Principles of epidemiology course introduces epidemiological principles and methods to study, quantify, and assess the distribution and determinants of disease among populations. Learners examine the influence of biological and social factors on population health, including epigenetics, infectious disease, and foodborne illnesses. Learners evaluate epidemiologic study designs and apply measures of association as methods for determining relationships.
What is epidemiology?
Epidemiology 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 control of health problems.
Public health workers use epidemiologic principles as the foundation for disease surveillance and investigation activities. Moreover, every public health worker should be familiar with the basic principles of epidemiology and how they are useful.
Basic principles of epidemiology.
There are several basic principles of epidemiology. These include the following:
Epidemiology is concerned with the frequency and pattern of health events in a population. Frequency includes not only the number of events in a population but also the rate or risk of disease in the population. Therefore, determining the rate of disease occurrences (which is the number of events divided by the size of the population) is vital for making effective comparisons across different populations.
Epidemiology is also used to search for causes and other factors that influence the occurrence of health-related events. The occurrence of a health-related event is usually related to multiple determinants that should be considered.
Examples of determinants include:
- Host susceptibility to a disease
- Opportunity for exposure to a microorganism.
- Environmental toxin.
- Insect vector or another infected individual that may pose a risk for acquiring the disease.
Epidemiologists are troubled with the collective health of people in a community or other area and the impact of health events on that population.
Epidemiology offers data for directing public health action. Moreover, an epidemiologist not only uses the scientific methods of descriptive and analytic epidemiology in diagnosing the health of a community but also must call upon experience and creativity when planning how to control and prevent disease in the community.
Benefits of studying epidemiology.
PUB-540: Principles of epidemiology course gives the students important skills that can be used to achieve the following:
- Count health-related events
- Describe the distribution of health-related events in the population
- Identify risk factors for developing diseases
- Describe clinical patterns
- Identify causes or determinants of disease
- Identify control and/or preventive measures
- Establish priorities for allocating resources
- Select interventions for prevention and control
- Evaluate programs.
- Conduct research such as risk factors and causes, drug trials or vaccine trials, and operational research.
Applications of epidemiology in public health.
Public health officials must assess the health of the population they serve and must determine whether health services are available, accessible, effective, and efficient in order to set policy and plan programs. Epidemiology offers data for directing public health action. This information helps in planning how to control and prevent disease in the community. Additionally, through public health surveillance, health systematically collects, analyzes, interprets, and disseminates health data on an ongoing basis. Thus, by having knowledge of the ongoing pattern of disease occurrence and disease potential, a health agency can effectively and efficiently investigate, prevent and control disease in the community.
We have to remember that disease surveillance starts with descriptive epidemiology. Descriptive epidemiology involves defining the what, who, when, and where of health-related events.
- What – Define the disease events and their determinants
- Who – This involves the descriptions of demographic characteristics which are helpful in determining which groups are at risk for some outcomes.
- When – Epidemiologists identify unusual occurrences by following changes in disease rates over time, following long-term disease trends and knowledge of the seasonality of certain diseases.
- Where – Insight into the geographical extent of health-related events gives an idea of where the agent that causes a disease normally lives and multiplies, what may carry or transmit it and how it spreads.