Assignment: History, Principles, and Application of Epidemiology

Assignment: History, Principles, and Application of Epidemiology

Assignment: History, Principles, and Application of Epidemiology

The purpose of this assignment is to familiarize yourself with individuals who have made major contributions to the field of epidemiology. Looking back at history, epidemics of infectious diseases have been acknowledged dating back to the earliest times, describing epidemics of smallpox, measles, the bubonic plague, syphilis, and leprosy, all of which have influenced the outcome of exploration, military adventures, and colonization, as well as industrial development and the arts. Public health must continue to focus on identifying effective ways of improving health related to factors that contribute to morbidity and mortality by developing interventions that involve whole communities to be more health conscious.

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Research the following individuals and their roles in shaping contemporary epidemiology:

  • John Graunt
  • James Lind
  • Edward Jenner
  • Ignaz Semmelweis
  • John Snow

Examine the history, principles, and application of epidemiology and write a 1,000-1,250-paper to explain your findings. Choose one of the individuals from your research and include the following:

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  1. Define epidemiology and discuss its purpose and importance to public health.
  2. Describe the disease and the event or major contribution in which the individual you selected was involved. Using descriptive epidemiology, discuss how common the disease was at the time, who was infected, when it occurred (time of year or season), and the mode of transmission. If the individual is not associated with a specific disease, discuss a significant disease happening during that period.
  3. Explain how the individual influenced epidemiology and discuss the advanced epidemiological methods and process the individual used to describe and control disease. Discuss how the individual’s contributions helped to inform the application definition of epidemiology in public health.
  4. Describe three subspecialties within epidemiology. Refer to the “Subspecialties in Epidemiology” resource, as needed for assistance.
  5. Subspecialties in Epidemiology
  6. Environmental epidemiology
  7. Clinical epidemiology
  8. Genetic epidemiology
  9. Molecular epidemiology
  10. Nutritional epidemiology
  11. Social epidemiology
  12. Lifecourse epidemiology
  13. Epi methods development / Biostatistics
  14. Meta-analysis
  15. Spatial epidemiology
  16. Biomarker epidemiology
  17. Pharmacoepidemiology
  18. Primary care epidemiology
  19. Infection control and hospital epidemiology
  20. Public health practice epidemiology
  21. Surveillance epidemiology
  22. Disease informatics
  23. Infectious disease epidemiology
  24. Cardiovascular disease epidemiology
  25. Cancer epidemiology
  26. Neuroepidemiology
  27. Epidemiology of aging
  28. Oral/Dental epidemiology
  29. Reproductive epidemiology
  30. Obesity/Diabetes epidemiology
  31. Renal epidemiology
  32. Injury epidemiology
  33. Psychiatric epidemiology
  34. Veterinary epidemiology
  35. Epidemiology of zoonosis
  36. Respiratory epidemiology
  37. Pediatric epidemiology

You are required to cite to a minimum of three sources to complete this assignment. Sources must be published within the last 5 years and appropriate for the assignment criteria and public health content.

Prepare this assignment according to the guidelines found in the APA Style Guide

This assignment uses a rubric. Please review the rubric prior to beginning the assignment to become familiar with the expectations for successful completion.

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History, Principles, and Application of Epidemiology

Epidemiology is a central concept in public health since it entails the science of describing and analyzing disease etiology, natural history, prognosis, extent, and the subsequent evaluation of existing and newly conceptualized therapeutic and treatment interventions (Celentano & Szklo, 2019). Amidst the massive contribution of epidemiology to public health, it is essential to reflect on the historical works of researchers and reputable individuals in disease prevention, management, treatment, and control. As a result, this paper focuses on a comprehensive definition of epidemiology, Edward Jenner’s contribution to contemporary epidemiology, and three subspecialties of epidemiology.

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Epidemiology and its Purpose and Importance to Public Health

Often, public health professionals engage in scientific and analytical approaches to understanding the distribution of diseases and factors that contribute to the population’s vulnerability to disease-causing pathogens. These activities underpin the general definition of epidemiology. Celentano & Szklo (2019) define epidemiology as “the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events in specified populations and the application of this study to control of health problems” (p. 2). In the same breath, Evangelou (2018) perceives epidemiology as the in-depth and comprehensive study of disease occurrence, distribution, and processes specific to different populations, including the subsequent study of determinants that predispose people to health-related events. Upon the completion of the disease’s epidemiological study, public health professionals and health policymakers can apply this knowledge to control it and prevent adverse outcomes like mortalities, disabilities, and readmissions.

Despite inconsistent definitions of epidemiology, scholarly researchers arrive at a consensus that epidemiological information is crucial to public health. According to Nature Communications (2018), epidemiology is central to the identification of diseases’ distribution, underlying causes and risk factors, control interventions, and the understanding of how sociopolitical and scientific factors exacerbate diseases’ risks. For example, epidemiological knowledge allows public health professionals to understand and explain the impact of climate change on the prevalence of chronic and communicable diseases, including Ebola, Zika virus, and cancer (Nature Communications, 2018). In the same vein, Merrill (2018) contends that epidemiology encourages the systematic collection, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of health data. As a result, it supports evidence-based public health interventions, healthcare policies, and programs aimed at promoting the physical, mental, and social well-being of the population. By analyzing socioeconomic, political, cultural, and geographical aspects that predispose people to diseases, it is possible to develop population-centered and tailored approaches for improving people’s health and promoting safety.

The Description of the Disease and Events that Motivated Edward Jenner’s Involvement in Public Health

Many individuals, including scientists, contributed massively to epidemiology as a discipline. Edward Jenner is among the scientists whose work remains significant in contemporary epidemiology. Smallpox was a burdensome and life-threatening disease in the 18th century, considering its association with adverse effects such as a high mortality rate and detrimental symptoms. According to Celentano & Szklo (2019), smallpox accounted for about 400000 deaths annually in the late 18th century, as well as blindness because of corneal infections. Everybody was susceptible to this disease due to its rapid transmission patterns. The variola virus (the viral pathogen for smallpox). According to Simonsen & Snowden (2022), the primary transmission patterns for smallpox were airborne droplet secretions or direct contact with contaminated fomites and lesions. Clinical manifestations of smallpox included various symptoms, such as high fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, and chills, accompanied by a febrile prodrome that occurred 1 to 3 days before the manifestation of skin lesions on the face and forearms, palms, soles, and other parts of the body.

Amidst limited knowledge of virology and smallpox’s transmission patterns, the disease contributed to high mortality rates in the 18th century. In this sense, isolation precautions were the most sought-after approach for preventing smallpox transmission (Simonsen & Snowden, 2022). Before the disease’s eradication through vaccination in 1967, smallpox had affected over 15 million people annually, including 2 million people who succumbed to the viral disease and others grappling with adverse health effects, including blindness (Celentano & Szklo, 2019). The post-eradication measures for preventing diseases of similar magnitude and pathophysiology include mass immunization, health promotion programs, and advancements in medical technology. It is essential to note that the introduction of the smallpox vaccine was central to the disease’s eradication.

How Edward Jenner Influenced Epidemiology

Jenner’s major contribution to epidemiology is the development of the first smallpox vaccine in the late 18th century (1768-1796). Amidst the struggle to contain burdensome and life-threatening smallpox, Jenner became convinced that cowpox could protect people against acquiring the smallpox virus after hearing a claim from a “dairy maid.” While testing this hypothesis, he removed cowpox material from Sarah Nelmes’ (dairy maid) hand and administered it to an 8-year-old James Phipps (Celentano & Szklo, 2019). Surprisingly, the child did not contract smallpox, justifying the hypothesis that cowpox materials could protect people against the variola virus.

Although Jenner operated primarily on observational data that justified his preventive interventions, the results of the first vaccination opened opportunities for massive vaccine advancements that saved millions of people from disease-related deaths and disabilities (Mehari, 2021). According to Simonsen & Snowden (2022), vaccination led to the successful eradication of smallpox in 1967 and has since played a central role in preventing and managing many other diseases. For instance, vaccine researchers utilize advanced technologies to develop tissue-culture-based live vaccines, viral subunit vaccine products, and live attenuated virus vaccines. These vaccines have played a significant role in protecting populations from polio, tetanus, flu (influenza), Hepatitis A & B, measles, rubella, mumps, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Subspecialties in Epidemiology

Genetic epidemiology

Genetic factors may predispose people to various diseases, including autoimmune diseases. As a result, public health professionals delve into an in-depth analysis of hereditary factors that form a complex interplay with environmental or social risks to increase people’s susceptibility to diseases. Genetic epidemiology emerges as an ideal specialty within epidemiology since it enables the scientific analysis of the relationship between genetics and disease distribution, extent, and severity. According to Evangelou (2019), genetic epidemiology aims at investigating and revealing the role of genetic determinants in health and diseases, as well as their interplay with environmental or social factors for population health. In contemporary epidemiology, genetic epidemiology relies massively upon sophisticated technologies to dissect the genetic architecture of complex diseases.

Nutritional epidemiology

Besides genetic predispositions, nutritional factors play a forefront role in determining people’s susceptibility to various diseases, including chronic conditions like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancer. As a result, nutritional epidemiology is a relatively new subspecialty of epidemiology that focuses on the relationship between nutrition and public health. Zamora-Ros & Gonzalez (2020) contend that nutritional epidemiology investigates the contributions of dietary patterns, foods, and nutrients to diseases. The subsequent nutritional knowledge enables public health professionals to estimate dietary and nutritional exposure, develop statistical modeling of the interplay between diet and diseases, and implement informed interventions for addressing conditions exacerbated by unhealthy diet plans and choices.

Social epidemiology

Social determinants of health (SDOH) are responsible for preventable public health disparities. Although people are susceptible to diseases and other health threats, their degree of vulnerability varies due to their socioeconomic predispositions. According to Gilman et al. (2021), social epidemiology focuses on the influence of social forces on population health. Essential aspects of social epidemiology are social networks and relationships, institutions, norms, cultures, politics, and policies. Social epidemiology influences interventions for enhancing people’s socioeconomic and cultural contexts that are consistent with population health.


Historical events like disease outbreaks contributed to the subsequent advancement of epidemiology as a discipline. In this sense, epidemiological knowledge and data explain the occurrence and distribution of health-related events, and population-centered factors for health events, and influence interventions for preventing, controlling, and treating diseases. Without epidemiological knowledge, it is entirely complex to understand disease patterns and subsequent preventive measures. Reputable historical individuals contributed massively to contemporary epidemiology. For example, Edward Jenner’s invention of the smallpox vaccine in the late 18th century proved significant in today’s interventions for combating infectious diseases. Vaccines have played a significant role in the eradication of smallpox and in protecting people from other burdensome diseases like polio, tetanus, measles, hepatitis A & B, rubella, and the COVID-19 pandemic.


Celentano, D. D., & Szklo, M. (2019). Gordis epidemiology (6th ed.). Elsevier.

Evangelou, E. (Ed.). (2018). Genetic epidemiology: Methods and protocols. Humana Press.

Gilman, S. E., Aiello, A., Galea, S., Howe, C. J., Kawachi, I., Lovasi, G. S., Dean, L. T., Oakes, J. M., Siddiqi, A., & Glymour, M. M. (2021). Advancing the social epidemiology mission of the American Journal of Epidemiology. American Journal of Epidemiology, 191(4), 557–560.

Mehari, T. (2021). Traditional inoculation practices that led to the development of modern vaccination techniques: A review. Journal of Public Health and Epidemiology, 13(1), 1–7.

Merrill, R. M. (2021). Introduction to epidemiology (8th ed.). Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Nature Communications. (2018). Epidemiology is a science of high importance. Nature Communications, 9(1), 1–2.

Simonsen, K. A., & Snowden, J. (2022). Smallpox (Variola). StatPearls Publishing.

Zamora-Ros, R., & González, C. A. (2020). Diet-disease relationships: Recent advances in nutritional epidemiology. Mètode Revista de Difusió de La Investigació, 11.

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