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What is epidemiology?

Epidemiology is the study of the distribution and determinants of health problems in specified populations and the application of this study to control health problems.

Epidemiology is the scientific method used by "disease detectives"—epidemiologists—to get to the root of a public health problem or emerging public health event affecting a specific population.

Examples of populations include:

  • A neighborhood
  • A city, county, state, territory, or country
  • A school
  • An inpatient or outpatient healthcare facility
  • The global community

What public health problems or events are investigated?

Environmental exposures
  • Lead and heavy metals
  • Air pollutants and other asthma triggers
Infectious diseases
  • Foodborne illness
  • Influenza and pneumonia
Injuries
  • Increased homicides in a community
  • National surge in domestic violence
Non-infectious diseases
  • Localized or widespread rise in a particular type of cancer
  • Increase in a major birth defect
Natural disasters
  • Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005)
  • Haiti earthquake (2010)
Terrorism
  • World Trade Center (2001)
  • Anthrax release (2001)
 
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