The Role of Epidemiology

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HSC Core 1:

Health Priorities in Australia

How are priority issues for Australia’s health identified?

• Measuring health status

Role of epidemiology:

Epidemiology is used by governments and health related organisations to obtain a picture of the health status of a population, to identify the patterns of health and disease, and analyse how health services and facilities are being used

Epidemiology considers the patterns of disease in terms of:

o Prevalence

o Incidence

o Distribution (the extent)

o Apparent causes (determinants and indicators)

Observations and statistics help researchers and health authorities to:

o Describe and compare patterns of health of groups, communities and populations

o Identify health needs and allocate health care resources accordingly

o Evaluate health behaviours and strategies to control and prevent disease

o Identify and promote behaviours that can improve the health status of the overall population eg, eating less fat and more fibre

Date collected through epidemiological focus on quantifiable and direct measures of ill health, such as patterns of illness, injury and death. Epidemiology commonly uses statistics on:

o Births

o Deaths

o Disease incidence

o Disease prevalence

o Contact with health care providers

o Hospital use

Limitations of epidemiology

Epidemiology has proved to be an effective approach, however has some limitations. Eg epidemiological statistics

o Do not always show the significant variations in health status among population groups Eg. Between aboriginal and non aboriginal Australians

o Might not accurately indicate quality of life in terms of people’s level of distress, impairment, disability and handicap. Statistics tell us little about the degree and impact of illness
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