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Epidemiology and advocacy

Posted on:3/24/2006
Epidemiology is one of the main resources of public health. In general, most epidemiologists feel that their duties include advocacy for the health of populations, bearing in mind the outpost perspective they have over factors that affect a whole population.



Epidemiology is one of the main resources of public health. In general, most epidemiologists feel that their duties include advocacy for the health of populations, bearing in mind the outpost perspective they have over factors that affect a whole population. In many cases, epidemiologic evidence has to be disseminated to the general public in order to obtain health benefits, and to help people to make informed decisions about their health. The presentation of results to the general public is sometimes simplified to help change behavior or understanding. For example, consider these two alternative admonishments against smoking:

1) Smoking has been consistently linked to health problems such as lung cancer and coronary heart disease in several large prospective studies, this link has been deemed causal by a complex process of induction, consensus, and modeling.
2) Smoking may kill you.

Although the first statement is more accurate, the second statement has an air of finality and explicit causation that may help to reduce more the rate of smoking.

The best public health advocates consider the broader context beyond the epidemiology and public health literature to render judgment on a course of action for a population. In this manner they are employing a different analytical framework than the strict scientific method that is more common in scientific epidemiology. However, it is rare for one person to wield the skills and embody the features required to be a leader in both the scientific and advocacy aspects of public health. Moreover, scientists who stretch the truth in matters of advocacy ultimately risk their own scientific credibility.


 


  
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