Epidemiology

Discussion 1-3 EPid ( two pages)

Because it draws from other fields such as biostatistics and social sciences, epidemiology is described as being interdisciplinary. From which aspects of other disciplines do you feel epidemiology borrows? In what ways does epidemiology differ from those disciplines? When responding to your classmates, provide additional connections between epidemiology and other disciplines. Support your response with specific examples.

Response one

Epidemiology and Other Disciplines

 Epidemiology is the “study of the distribution and determinants of health and disease, morbidity, injuries, disability, and mortality in populations” (Friis & Sellers, 2014, p. 743).  Epidemiology was first developed to understand causes of certain diseases such as smallpox and polio among humans. It now also includes the study of factors associated with non-transmissible diseases like cancer. It is described as interdisciplinary as it borrows elements from many other disciplines including microbiology and sociology. Epidemiology utilizes microbiology to help understand specific disease agents and modes of transmission. Microbiological techniques are borrowed to help in revealing sources of outbreaks and to determine sources. Sociology is equally important in epidemiology to aid in the study of social conditions and disease processes. Social sciences also assist epidemiologists in providing different methods on sampling such as measurement, questionnaire development, design, and delivery (Friis & Sellers, 2014). “Social factors have become more important precisely because epidemiological and biomedical knowledge has shifted the causes and consequences of disease from fate, accident, and bad luck to factors that are under some human control” (Link, 2008, p. 367).

Epidemiology differs from other disciplines in its perspective on groups or populations rather than individuals. It contrasts diseases and characteristics relative to different time periods, different places or different groups. It also differs from the physical sciences because it does not investigate the biological mechanism leading from exposure to disease. Epidemiologists can identify modifiable conditions that contribute to the health outcome without also identifying the biological mechanism or agent that lead to the outcome. An example of this is the improvements of environmental hygiene that reduced infectious diseases like cholera, that was possible before the identification of the actual bacteria (Ahrens, Krickeberg, & Pigeot, 2005).

Epidemiological studies are crucial to preventing, controlling and eradicating diseases. The research helps us to understand the incidence and prevalence of diseases, the cost of illness, and the burden of disease on society (Friis & Sellers, 2014). I have attached an article that I read about the role of mathematical modeling and prediction in infectious disease epidemiology that I felt was interesting and relevant to our Epidemiology course.