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Epidemiology: the foundation of public health 

Epidemiology: the foundation of public health
Epidemiology: the foundation of public health

Roger Detels

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date: 19 May 2022

Epidemiology is the basic science of public health, because it is the science that describes the relationship of health and/or disease with other health-related factors in human populations, such as human pathogens. Furthermore, epidemiology has been used to generate much of the information required by public health professionals to develop, implement, and evaluate effective intervention programmes for the prevention of disease and promotion of health. Unlike pathology, which constitutes a basic area of knowledge, and cardiology, which is the study of a specific organ, epidemiology is a philosophy and methodology that can be applied to learning about and resolving a very broad range of health problems. It is not enough to know what the various study designs and statistical methodologies are. The ‘art’ of epidemiology is knowing when and how to apply the various epidemiological strategies creatively to answer specific health questions. The uses and limitations of the various epidemiological study designs are presented in this chapter to illustrate and underscore the fact that the successful application of epidemiology requires more than a knowledge of study designs and epidemiological methods. This introductory chapter, attempts to define epidemiology, to present ways in which epidemiology is used in the advancement of public health, and finally, to discuss the range of applications of epidemiological methodologies.

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