The future of epidemiology
Mona Okasha shares her vision in the last article in our series
- By: Mona Okasha
It may seem a strange question--“Where will epidemiology go in the 21st century?” Why is that a consideration at all? Hardliners have suggested that epidemiology is no longer useful1 and have gone as far as to suggest closing epidemiology departments.2 Their arguments are as follows: (a) that epidemiology did well finding strong associations between common conditions and disease, but the methods we use are too crude to find anything but the largest of effects; (b) that using epidemiological methods we have found all that we can find; and (c) that the future of understanding causes of disease lies in the laboratory not epidemiology.
Not surprisingly, I disagree with those arguments. Epidemiology is a rapidly changing discipline. It has changed with the times. In the early part of the 20th century, the important public health problems in the United Kingdom (barring poverty) were infectious diseases, such as smallpox and tuberculosis. With