In simple words, epidemiology can be referred to as the method used for finding the causes of health outcomes and medical ailments in diverse populations. According to Paolo Boffetta, epidemiology identifies the distribution of diseases, as well as the elements related to their causes and sources. He says that methods used for the control of varying diseases also come under epidemiology. Boffetta himself is an adjunct professor of epidemiology, and hence has an extremely good insight of this domain. He mentions that epidemiology also includes an understanding of how political, social and scientific factors intersect to exacerbate disease risk, which makes it quite a unique science.
Epidemiology is broadly the study of how often diseases occur in diverse groups of people and the reasons for it. Dr. Paolo Boffetta says that epidemiological information is usually used for the purpose of planning and evaluating strategies in order to prevent illness, as well as provide guidance on the management of patients who are already facing the relevant disease. Much like clinical findings and pathology, the epidemiology of a disease tends to be a crucial aspect of its basic description. The subject of epidemiology involves special techniques of data collection and interpretation as well.
Paolo Boffetta mentions that a key feature of epidemiology is the measurement of disease outcomes in relation to a population at risk. The population at risk would refer to a group of people, sick or healthy, who can be counted as cases if they had the disease that is being studied. For example, in case a general practitioner was trying to measure how often patients consult him about hearing difficulties, the population at risks would largely comprise of people on his list that might see him when faced with deafness issues, if they had one. Patients who have moved to another area would not consult that doctor, and hence shall not belong to the population at risk.
As per Dr. Paolo Boffetta, the uses of epidemiology can be several. Here are a few of them:
- Epidemiology helps in making useful projections about the future when it comes to the historical study of the health of the community, as well as rise and fall of diseases in the population.
- Epidemiology facilitates community diagnoses in regards to the presence, nature and distribution of health and disease among the population. It takes into consideration that society is changing, and so are the health problems prevalent in it. For example, lifestyle diseases heart disease, stroke, obesity, and type II diabetes have especially become more prevalent in the modern world.
- Epidemiology aids in studying the workings of health services. It starts with the determination of resources and needs, and proceeds to involve the analysis of services in action and attempts to appraise. These studies can be comparative between diverse populations.
The epidemiology principles and techniques can also help people to estimate the individual’s chances and risks of facing a disease, based on common experience.