These involve the use of different study methods and tools on a large number of research participants in single or multiple settings. These include observational studies, case-control studies, cohort studies, case reports, case series, and other descriptive and experimental studies.
It is the cornerstone of public health and shapes policy decisions and evidence-based practice by identifying risk factors for disease and targets for preventive healthcare. Epidemiologists help with study design, collection, and statistical analysis of data, amend interpretation and dissemination of results (including peer review and occasional systematic review). Epidemiology has helped develop methodology used in clinical research, public health studies, and, to a lesser extent, basic research in the biological sciences.
Epidemiology, literally meaning "the study of what is upon the people", is derived from Greek, Modern epi, meaning 'upon, among', demos, meaning 'people, district', and logos, meaning 'study, word, discourse', suggesting that it applies only to human populations. However, the term is widely used in studies of zoological populations (veterinary epidemiology), although the term "epizoology" is available, and it has also been applied to studies of plant populations (botanical or plant disease epidemiology).
Case series may refer to the qualitative study of the experience of a single patient, or small group of patients with a similar diagnosis, or to a statistical factor with the potential to produce illness with periods when they are unexposed.
The former type of study is purely descriptive and cannot be used to make inferences about the general population of patients with that disease. These types of studies, in which an astute clinician identifies an unusual feature of a disease or a patient's history, may lead to a formulation of a new hypothesis. Using the data from the series, analytic studies could be done to investigate possible causal factors. These can include case-control studies or prospective studies. A case-control study would involve matching comparable controls without the disease to the cases in the series. A prospective study would involve following the case series over time to evaluate the disease's natural history.
Case-control studies select subjects based on their disease status. It is a retrospective study. A group of individuals that are disease positive (the "case" group) is compared with a group of disease negative individuals (the "control" group). The control group should ideally come from the same population that gave rise to the cases. The case-control study looks back through time at potential exposures that both groups (cases and controls) may have encountered.
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