Discussion: Impact of historical contribution on epidemiological practices

March 6, 2022

Discussion: Impact of historical contribution on epidemiological practices

Discussion: Impact of historical contribution on epidemiological practices

Discussion: Impact of historical contribution on epidemiological practices

Epidemiology is derived from the observations and inquiries of pioneers, such as Hippocrates, John Snow, Pasteur, and Koch, who have contributed immeasurably to the history of epidemiology. The discoveries and achievements of these epidemiological pioneers have played an important role in evolving epidemiology and disease control.

Discuss the impact of at least one major historical contribution on current epidemiological practices. Explain how history can potentially shape and impact our future work in public health and clinical medicine.

The 47th annual meeting of the Society for Epidemiologic Research hosted 17 invited speakers charged by the Executive Committee with presenting some of the many ways that epidemiologists have improved the health of the general population. There were 9 “Then and Now” sessions that were structured to focus on how early epidemiologists overcame research hurdles and advanced health through innovative strategies. For most topics, a longstanding expert was paired with an excellent contemporary epidemiologist working in the area, and both were given the freedom to deliver an integrated story about epidemiology’s temporal role in protecting and promoting public health. Epidemiologic discoveries in cardiovascular, cancer, and perinatal epidemiology were discussed on day 1, followed by discussions of accomplishments in reducing exposures that adversely impact health (nutrition, environment/occupation, and tobacco use) on day 2. Topics with relevancy for many aspects of epidemiology were presented on day 3, including infectious diseases, social forces, and causal thinking in epidemiologic research. Given the large number of outstanding senior and junior epidemiologists that attended the meeting, choosing speakers was a unique challenge. What became evident from all sessions was the passion that epidemiologists have for population health, tempered with concerns for remaining true to epidemiologic principles, the timely adoption of innovative methods, and the responsible interpretation of research findings.

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Keywords: cancer, cardiovascular epidemiology, environment, infection, nutrition, perinatal epidemiology, social epidemiology, tobacco
Epidemiologists promote the health of all populations through etiologic and interventional research supported by innovative methods and the accurate interpretation of research findings. Epidemiology attracts talented individuals who appreciate the many challenges

Discussion Impact of historical contribution on epidemiological practices

Discussion Impact of historical contribution on epidemiological practices

confronting our research, such as disease complexity, the many mixtures to which humans are exposed, the difficulty in motivating behavioral change, and the uneven access to and use of preventive and therapeutic clinical services. When facing such challenges, it is important to remember our discoveries that have improved life expectancy (1) and quality of life (2). Still, many environmental and social factors continue to affect the prevalence of diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease that account for a considerable proportion of mortality (3), as do other emerging threats such as highly caloric and poor-quality diets, use of unconventional tobacco products, and the (re)emergence of pathogens.

The Society for Epidemiologic Research’s leadership realized that we have the ability to gain perspective on how best to meet contemporary challenges in maximizing population health by reflecting upon our history. Whereas past authors have described epidemiology’s history from a chronological (4–6), exposure (7, 8), or disease (9–11) perspective, the Society had the idea to pair longstanding experts with emerging leaders to discuss past and current accomplishments and strategies for discovery. We dedicated 3 invited sessions to this topic at our 47th annual meeting, which was held on June 25–27, 2014.

Although seemingly a simple task, a few issues emerged, namely which topics and speakers to select and what to call the sessions. The invited sessions were entitled “Then and Now” and included discussions on prevalent diseases (cardiovascular disease, cancer, and perinatal diseases), prevalent exposures (nutrition, occupation/environment, and tobacco smoking), and overarching considerations (social forces, causal thinking, and infectious diseases). In the present article, we describe the speakers’ key points, as adapted from their talks.

 

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