The Franklin County Health Department (FCHD) daily investigates cases of communicable disease such as influenza, food-borne illness, pertussis, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and sexually transmitted infections, per 902 KAR 2:020. FCHD communicates this information to the Kentucky Department for Public Health, surveillance sites and community partners, facilitating collaborative efforts to monitor the health status of Franklin County. This data also aids public and private health officials in educating patients and clients, planning staff trainings on timely disease topics and preparing for and responding to disease outbreaks. Epidemiology is the study (scientific, systematic, data-driven) of the distribution (frequency, pattern) and determinants (causes, risk factors) of health-related states and events (not just diseases) in specified populations (patient is community, individuals viewed collectively), and the application of (since epidemiology is a discipline within public health) this study to the control of health problems.
The word epidemiology comes from the Greek words epi, meaning on or upon, demos, meaning people, and logos, meaning the study of. In other words, the word epidemiology has its roots in the study of what befalls a population. Many definitions have been proposed, but the following definition captures the underlying principles and public health spirit of epidemiology:
Epidemiology is the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events in specified populations, and the application of this study to the control of health problems (1).
Epidemiology is a scientific discipline with sound methods of scientific inquiry at its foundation. Epidemiology is data-driven and relies on a systematic and unbiased approach to the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data. Basic epidemiologic methods tend to rely on careful observation and use of valid comparison groups to assess whether what was observed, such as the number of cases of disease in a particular area during a particular time period or the frequency of an exposure among persons with disease, differs from what might be expected. However, epidemiology also draws on methods from other scientific fields, including biostatistics and informatics, with biologic, economic, social, and behavioral sciences. - CDC
In fact, epidemiology is often described as the basic science of public health, and for good reason. First, epidemiology is a quantitative discipline that relies on a working knowledge of probability, statistics, and sound research methods. Second, epidemiology is a method of causal reasoning based on developing and testing hypotheses grounded in such scientific fields as biology, behavioral sciences, physics, and ergonomics to explain health-related behaviors, states, and events. However, epidemiology is not just a research activity but an integral component of public health, providing the foundation for directing practical and appropriate public health action based on this science and causal reasoning.(2) - CDC
Epidemiology is also used to search for determinants, which are the causes and other factors that influence the occurrence of disease and other health-related events. Epidemiologists assume that illness does not occur randomly in a population, but happens only when the right accumulation of risk factors or determinants exists in an individual. To search for these determinants, epidemiologists use analytic epidemiology or epidemiologic studies to provide the “Why” and “How” of such events. They assess whether groups with different rates of disease differ in their demographic characteristics, genetic or immunologic make-up, behaviors, environmental exposures, or other so-called potential risk factors. Ideally, the findings provide sufficient evidence to direct prompt and effective public health control and prevention measures. - CDC
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