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10.5A: Descriptive Epidemiology

  • Page ID
    11748
  • Descriptive epidemiology focuses on describing disease distribution by characteristics relating to time, place, and people.

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

    Describe the role of a descriptive epidemiology

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

    • Epidemiology is the science concerned with the study of the factors that influence and determine the frequency and distribution of disease, injury, and other health -related events and their causes in a defined human population.
    • The more fully a descriptive epidemiologist can describe people, places and times, and any correlations between the three, the more likely it is that patterns will emerge which can be considered as risk factors for certain kinds of health issues.
    • Epidemiologists use data as an information source for communicating information to people and to influence public policy.

    Key Terms

    • socioeconomic: Of or pertaining to social and economic factors.
    • epidemiology: The branch of a science dealing with the spread and control of diseases, computer viruses, concepts, etc., throughout populations or systems.
    • risk factor: A variable associated with an increased risk of disease or infection.

    The goal of epidemiology is to establish causal factors for health issues in order to improve the health and safety of entire populations. A population can refer to a town, country, age group, or race. Health issues refer to anything that might impact health in the present or future. For epidemiologists, data on who is most likely to be injured in car crashes can be just as valuable as a topic of inquiry as data on what part of the population is most at risk for developing complications from the flu. In order to accomplish this, epidemiology has two main branches: descriptive and analytical.

    Descriptive epidemiology evaluates and catalogs all the circumstances surrounding a person affected by a health event of interest. Analytical epidemiologists use data gathered by descriptive epidemiology experts to look for patterns suggesting causation. The end goal of both branches is to reduce the incidence of health events or diseases by understanding the risk factors for the health events or diseases. Both descriptive and analytical epidemiology often serve public health organizations by providing information that may reduce disease or reduce other kinds of events that impact people’s health.

    The primary considerations for descriptive epidemiology are frequency and pattern. Frequency evaluates the rate of occurrence, and pattern helps analytical epidemiologists suggest risk factors. Descriptive epidemiology evaluates frequency and pattern by examining the person, place, and time in relationship to health events.

    Descriptive epidemiology examines factors like age, education, socioeconomic status, availability of health services, race, and gender. Evaluations of specific individuals may also include gathering information on behaviors like drug abuse, shift work, eating, and exercise patterns.