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Field Epidemiology$
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Michael Gregg

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195313802

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195313802.001.0001

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Describing the Findings: Descriptive Epidemiology

Describing the Findings: Descriptive Epidemiology

Field Epidemiology

Robert E. Fontaine

Richard A. Goodman

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses descriptive epidemiology. Field epidemiologists will either collect, or be presented with data from outbreak investigations, surveillance systems, vital statistics, or other sources of information for appropriate analysis. One of the fundamental tasks will be to orient and organize these data to construct useful and relevant presentations and interpretations. This task is called descriptive epidemiology. Descriptive epidemiology includes both numbers and rates to document how much of a health condition is present or occurring in a population. It also includes the three critical dimensions for describing health conditions: time, place, and person. Time refers to acute changes in disease occurrence, such as an epidemic, and changes over longer time periods, such as seasonal patterns and secular trends. Place refers to geopolitical boundaries, topography, or locations of rooms, buildings, and other structures. Person refers to demographic and other personal characteristics of the populations under study. When done well, descriptive epidemiology can characterize the health problem in the community; provide clues that can be turned into testable hypotheses; and promote effective communication with scientific, policymaking, and lay audiences alike.

Keywords:   field investigations, field epidemiology, data collection, health conditions, outbreak investigations, surveillance systems, vital statistics

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