What is epidemiology?
Epidemiology is the method used to ﬁnd the causes of health outcomes and diseases in populations. In epidemiology, the patient is the community, and individuals are viewed collectively. By definition, epidemiology is the study (scientific, systematic, and data-driven) of the distribution (frequency, pattern) and determinants causes, risk factors) of health-related states and events (not just diseases) in specified populations (neighborhood, school, city, state, country, global). It is also the application of this study to the control of health problems.
Who are epidemiologists?
When diseases outbreaks or other threats emerge, epidemiologists are on the scene to investigate. Often called “Disease Detectives”, epidemiologists search for the cause of disease, identify people who are at risk, determine how to control or stop the spread or prevent it from happening again.
Like investigators at the scene of a crime, disease detectives begin by looking for clues. They systematically gather information, asking questions such as:
Who is sick?
What are their symptoms?
When did they get sick?
Where could they have been exposed?
Using statistical analysis, epidemiologists study answers to these questions to find out how particular health problems were introduced. Disease detectives use what they learn during the investigation and make recommendations to control the spread or prevent a future occurrence.
Public health problems or events that epidemiologists may investigate:
Lead and heavy metals
Air pollutants and other asthma triggers
Influenza and pneumonia
Increased homicides in a community
The national surge in domestic violence
The localized or widespread rise in a particular type of cancer
Increase in a major birth defect
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005)
Haiti earthquake (2010)
World Trade Center (2001)
Anthrax release (2001)
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Teacher roadmap (Updated: June 17, 2017)
For more information, contact our nurse supervisor at: 270-259-3141.