Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Epidemiology and biostatistics are two of the foundations of public health science and practice (Institute of Medicine, 1988). Graduate and undergraduate degrees in schools of public health all include some level of training in these basic disciplines. As an epidemiologist, I consider the training to be vital to provide future researchers and practitioners of public health the analytic reasoning and interpretation skills to (1) understand and interpret research publications, (2) plan and execute research and evaluation studies, (3) provide scientific information about causal evidence, and (4) use information about risk factors and cause to shape programs and policies. For public health practitioners who are epidemiology specialists, the training and the skill set is more complex and expansive. When teaching the complexity of analytic reasoning in epidemiology, we often search for relevant, real world examples that permit us to impart both methods and broader public health content. Disability epidemiology provides a rich opportunity on both counts. It offers intellectually stimulating examples on issues that span the disciplines of both epidemiology and biostatistics. These issues, some of which are discussed in this chapter, relate to everything from pragmatic problems in field research to theoretical frameworks about the impact of risk factors across multiple levels of personal and environmental influences. Special populations, including people with disability (PWD), also offer an opportunity to examine and grapple with the public health challenge of disparities, and through that challenge, to help the disciplines of epidemiology and biostatistics to evolve. Unfortunately, there is an uneasy and even disrespectful relationship between the disability world and the world of public health, including epidemiology, when such an interface exists at all.
KeywordsSpinal Cord Injury National Health Interview Survey Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Mobility Impairment Public Health Practitioner
Supported, in part, by funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; grant # U48/CCU710806) for the Methods Core of the Saint Louis University Prevention Research Center. The author gratefully acknowledges the primary mythological coursework that provides the foundation for this chapter from Drs. Noel Weiss and Thomas Koepsell at the University of Washington School of Public Health (Koepsell & Weiss, 2003). However, they bear no responsibility for errors or interpretations that deviate from their teachings. The author also appreciates the assistance of the following individuals in the preparation of this work: Tori Vahle, M.P.H., Janet Tang, M.P.H., Tricia McLendon, M.P.H., Erin DeFries Bouldin, M.P.H., and Tegan Boehmer, Ph.D. The students of my graduate course in disability epidemiology at the Saint Louis University School of Public Health also furnished valuable comments, questions, and editing; their time and patience have made this a better product.
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