Field Epidemiology and Traditional Epidemiology

Posted: September 4th, 2013

Field Epidemiology and Traditional Epidemiology







Field Epidemiology and Traditional Epidemiology

Traditional epidemiology is a study that puts its focus on issues that are related to physiological condition and disease distribution, as well as the factors that play the role of distribution of the disease in question. In contrast, field epidemiology is the process through which laypersons endeavor in activities of necessary information and scientific data for marshalling the resources and knowledge (Blettner, 2009). These endeavors are employed to facilitate better understand the epidemiology of the disease in question. In other aspects, field epidemiology and traditional epidemiology are found to precede parallel to each other through different tempos and forms (Blettner, 2009).

Despite many differing aspects to traditional epidemiology, field epidemiology further emphasizes factors in a social structural format. A compelling example is its ability to establish a disease’s causative chain by incorporating social movements, utilization of judicial and political remedies (Gregg, 2006). Another example is evident from its reliability to challenge public health regulation, traditional epidemiology assumptions and risk assessment in the health practice field. One exemplary case is the Lyme disease discovery in the early 80s. Laypersons were able to solve a mystery in epidemiology before qualified scientists through field epidemiology, something that could not have been achieved through traditional epidemiology.

As compared to traditional epidemiology, field epidemiology largely focuses on justice and truth of the affected public by employing both professionals and laypersons to achieve its objective. Rather than being a mere system of folk beliefs, field epidemiology unites scientific and lay schools of thought with a view of linking politics and science (Gregg, 2006). Additionally, field epidemiology has an imperative aspect of distinguishing between public health significance and statistical significance. For instance, the field of study would consider an increase in disease rate to have a notable public significance even in cases where statistical probabilities do not appear alarming (Pearce, 2006). Furthermore, field epidemiology has a tendency of claiming the presence of a relationship when in reality none exists, that is, erring on false positives (Pearce, 2006).

On the other hand, however, traditional epidemiology has a tendency of relying on false negatives rather than false positives. This is the reason why traditional epidemiologists prefer to deny falsely relationship between given variables where in reality it exists, and assert that there is no relationship where in reality it exists. However, on a similar note, both traditional and field studies on epidemiology do not rely on statistically significant data to warrant an action against any threatening disease (Dworkin, 2011). The risk degree in both cases has to be one that a person with reason will be able to avoid it. To support this, a good example would be a case where pertinent tests are not based on what epidemiologists find on the nonrandomness of disease incidence, but the likelihood that a person with reasoning capacity would live among the risk prone community, or bathe in or drink from contaminated water.

Field epidemiology in its aspects puts into consideration injurious products or adverse effects of action of certain authorities or their inaction. In each case, the study aims at apportioning blame to the responsible party and afterwards soliciting for social and political compensation. Consequently, field epidemiology imparts many individuals with a better understanding on political and social activism. Research suggests that field epidemiology in this case challenges traditional epidemiology, especially in diseases induced by toxic wastes. In this case, when the society realizes its potential in science, then the community can build on its self-esteem, develop on new reference frames, and feel capable of challenging economic, political, scientific and cultural leaders as well as institutions (Gerstman, 2004). In contrast, traditional epidemiology cannot instill similar qualities in the society as it lacks similar incentives and framework.



Blettner, M., Sauerbrei, W., Schlehofer, B., Scheuchenpflug, T., & Friedenreich, C. (2009). Traditional reviews, meta-analyses and pooled analyses in epidemiology. International Journal of Epidemiology, 28, 1, 1-9.

Dworkin, M. S. (2011). Cases in field epidemiology: A global perspective. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Gerstman, B. B., & Poma, P. A. (2004). Book Reviews – Epidemiology Kept Simple — An Introduction to Traditional and Modern Epidemiology. Journal of the National Medical Association, 96, 7, 996.

Gregg, M. B., Dicker, R. C., & Goodman, R. A. (2006). Field epidemiology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Pearce, N. (2006). Traditional epidemiology, modern epidemiology, and public health. American Journal of Public Health, 86, 5, 678-83.









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