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Epidemiology in the past, present, and the future: Theory, ethics, context, and critical appraisal 

Epidemiology in the past, present, and the future: Theory, ethics, context, and critical appraisal
Chapter:
Epidemiology in the past, present, and the future: Theory, ethics, context, and critical appraisal
Author(s):

Raj S. Bhopal

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198739685.003.0010
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date: 25 October 2020

The philosophy and theory underpinning epidemiology is seldom made explicit but it is a positivist discipline. The basic theory is that systematic variations in the pattern of health and disease exist in populations and these are a product of differences in the prevalence of, or susceptibility to, the causal factors. Epidemiology using data on whole populations, comprising tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of people, is on the horizon. Studies on billions of people may occur within this century. The health applications of epidemiology obligate a code of ethics and good conduct that serves both its scientific and its applied purposes. Ethical, professional, and social obligations also require epidemiologists to have an understanding of the wider determinants of health and disease and of the history of the discipline. Only then can a productive future be shaped.

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