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solved assignment summer 2014 MH0051 – Health Administration Explain the types of epidemiological studies and list the uses of epidemiology.

Answer: Epidemiology is the study of diseases in large number of humans or other animals, in particular how, when and where they occur. Epidemiologists endeavor to determine what factors are related with diseases (risk factors), and what factors may protect people or animals against disease (protective factors). The science of epidemiology was first developed to discover and understand possible causes of contagious diseases like smallpox, typhoid and polio among humans. It has expanded to include the study of factors associated with non-transmissible diseases like cancer, and of poisonings caused by environmental agents.

Types of Epidemiological Studies (Observational and Experimental)

Epidemiological studies can be divided into two basic types depending on (a) whether the events have already happened (retrospective) or (b) whether the events may happen in the future (prospective). The most common studies are the retrospective studies which are also called case-control studies. A case-control study may begin when an outbreak of disease is noted and the causes of the disease are not known, or the disease is unusual
within the population studied.

Observational studies

In observational studies, the epidemiologist does not assign a treatment but rather observes. For example, if the epidemiologist wanted to see if smoking is related to lung cancer, she would not be able to ethically assign people to smoke and not smoke, but rather would observe the prevalence of who (smokers vs. non) develops cancer.

Experimental studies

In experimental studies, the epidemiologist assigns subjects treatments. This is in contrast to the observational study, where the researcher observes subjects and, in a sense, 'waits' for the 'treatment' or results to happen. The hallmark of the experimental study is that the allocation or assignment of individuals is under control of investigator and thus can be randomized. The key is that the investigator controls the assignment of the exposure or of the treatment but otherwise symmetry of potential unknown confounders is maintained through randomization. Properly executed experimental studies provide the strongest empirical evidence. The randomization also provides a better foundation for statistical procedures than do observational studies. One type of experimental study is the Randomized Control Trial.


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