What is epidemiology?
Epidemiology is the study of the occurrence of disease in groups of people, and the
use of that information to control health problems. Epidemiological studies look at
large numbers of people (a population, not just an individual). This is done to study the
association between exposure to a substance or event with the occurrence of an identified
disease. Most health regulations today are based on epidemiological studies.
What are complications associated with epidemiology?
There are some complications with epidemiological studies. Many detailed factors about
substance exposure, including the length of exposure and intensity of exposure, can
affect study results. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health
Sciences, this information may not be available or reliable because:
In an epidemiological study, it can be difficult to find small differences in the
rates of common diseases with precision. When a very large number of people may be
reliably affected by a common disease, relatively small differences cannot be identified
by epidemiological studies.
Epidemiologists also need to develop safeguards to protect the personal health information
of all the people they have contacted. This is especially true in times of emergency
or when the disease being studied is of a sensitive nature.