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Epidemiology: Back to translation

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Moyses Szklo, M.D.
Professor, Department of Epidemiology
The Johns Hopkins University


Epidemiology was born of the need to discover the evidence necessary for the practice of public health. Early generations of epidemiologists produced data with the objective of translating their findings into public health action. However, the need for epidemiology to establish its scientific credentials, and the fact that subsequent generations of epidemiologists lacked a public health background, eventually resulted in an almost exclusive focus on etiology. Over the last few decades, a wealth of evidence on etiology and disease mechanisms has been produced, but with relatively less attention to the application of this evidence to the development of health policies. More recently, there has been a renewed interest in translational and implementation science, making the time ripe for a rebirth of translational epidemiology. After a short discussion of the definition of translational epidemiology, concepts relevant to it will be discussed, including the importance of the latency period, the main prevention strategies, etiological confounding versus public health confounding, the primacy of the additive model for prevention, issues related to consistency of findings, and decision analysis. Finally, a comparison will be made between translational and “academic” epidemiology.

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