Field Epidemiology Manual Wiki

Assessing the burden of disease and risk assessment

Last modified at 3/22/2017 8:26 PM by Vladimir Prikazsky

Effective disease prevention and control depends on several factors that all have to be present and work together in the community. It all starts with the ability to detect threats to the health of the population. A threat can be seen as an undesirable situation that has not yet occurred, but that may happen unless protective measures are taken. The ability to detect a disease threat implies that we already have basic knowledge about the 'normal occurrence (or burden)' of this disease in the population.....

Assessing the burden of disease requires a public health workforce with the competence to collect, analyse and interpret health data from "your" population plus the infrastructure in the health care system that allows access to relevant data. Methods used in Field Epidemiology play a central part in assessing the burden of disease.

To detect health threats requires (in addition to the above) continuous monitoring of burden of disease information of 'your own' and surrounding populations, trends in risk behaviour, characteristics of pathogens (e.g. development of antimicrobial resistance) plus competent staff responsible for continuous collection, analysis and interpretation of information. The process aimed at detection of health threats is sometimes referred to as epidemic intelligence.

Once health threats have been detected and validated, information needs to be shared with "those who need to know" in the health system. This usually requires translation of specific epidemiology jargon in a format that can be used by policy and decision makers in order to decide on interventions (preventive and control measures).

This part of this FEMWiki addresses methods that can be used to assess the health status of the population and detection and assessment of health threats. Methods for Surveillance, Risk Assessment and Outbreak Investigations will be described in this section.

Interventions (public health measures, policy making and decision taking) is a topic described in another part of the FEMWIKI. Communication is yet another topic.