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Epidemiology: Definition, Objectives, Subspecialties

Definition of Epidemiology

Epidemiology is a medical terminology that is used to refer to the process of studying the causal factors as well as the spread of diseases (Last, 2000). From a careful review of literature, it is certain that the concept is very wide since it tends to answer numerous questions that emerge in the medical field. For instance, epidemiology attempts to address why a particular disease has developed, its signs and symptoms as well as the rate of prevalence among various age groups.

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Therefore, epidemiology broadly deals with the study of health-related issues such as predisposal factors, prevalence, causal factors and preventive or curative measures of various infections (Last, 2000).

Five objectives of epidemiology

It is apparent that there are numerous objectives of epidemiology. Research has shown that these objectives are very specific and relevant while handling health-related issues. One of the objectives entails identifying the causal factors that possibly increase the risks of spreading the disease from one person to another (Rothman, 2002).

This objective is relevant since it creates a thorough understanding of the cause of an infection and hence offers definite intervention measures to lower the spread of the ailment. Needless to say, this objective is crucial in “Little Known Health Science Fields” since it will enable health experts to develop rational and preventive programs to reduce exposure to risk factors.

The second objective of epidemiology entails assessing and determining the level of spread of the ailment in a given community (Boulton, Lemmings & Beck, 2009). This is a critical objective that enables health experts to execute thorough planning and allocation of health-related resources to the entire community (Bayer et al., 2007).

In line with the above objectives, epidemiology aims at studying the prognosis and natural history to understand unknown facts of a certain disease (Rothman, 2002). It is essential to note that there are diseases that are lethal and have more severe effects than others. Knowledge obtained from epidemiology helps health practitioners to make timely and appropriate measures to control and lower mortality rates (Bermejo, Quesada, & Ramos, 2012). It is also worthy to note that in Little Known Health Science Fields”, having a baseline for natural history is quite crucial since it assists in devising quantitative intervention measures.

Besides, epidemiology aims at evaluating new and existing therapeutic and preventative measures in the healthcare delivery system (Rothman, 2002). It is essential to consider the healthcare delivery model in order to assess the outcomes toward improving patients’ lives.

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On a final note, the concept targets to provide a base for developing and implementing public policies in regard to health promotion. Therefore, in “Little Known Health Science Fields”, there is a need to consider policies that will enhance good health for the community such as hazard management and other precautions.

Subspecialties within epidemiology

It is important to note that there are numerous fields that are commonly referred to as specialties in epidemiology. Notably, there are terms that can be used to denote different functions of epidemiology and hence they are often considered as subspecialties (Ambrose & Kadlubar, 1997). Some of the subspecialties include descriptive, preventive, experimental and observational epidemiology.

In this case, preventative epidemiology deals with measures that can be used to decimate the spread of disease. Descriptive epidemiology is used to describe the cause, prevalence and methods of treatment. Experimental and theoretical epidemiology aims at exploring the qualitative and quantitative aspects of a particular disease (Bayer et al., 2007).


Ambrose, C. & Kadlubar, F. (1997). Toward an integrated approach to molecular epidemiology. American Journal of Epidemiol 1(146): 912–918.

Bayer, R. et al (2007). Public Health Ethics: Theory, Policy and Practice. New York: Oxford University Press.

Bermejo, A., Quesada, M., & Ramos, R. (2012). Measuring the payback of research activities: A feasible ex-post evaluation methodology in epidemiology and public health. Social Science & Medicine, 75(3), 505.

Boulton, M., Lemmings, J. & Beck, J. (2009). Assessment of epidemiology capacity in state health departments, 2001-2006. Journal of Public Health Management Practice,15(4):328-336.

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Last, M. (2000). A Dictionary of Epidemiology. New York: Oxford University Press. Rothman, K. (2002). Epidemiology: an introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.

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