Research areas in Epidemiology and Public Health Sciences
Researchers in epidemiology and public health sciences study how the environment, lifestyle and genetic factors affect health and the aetiology of disease. This knowledge is used to create methods and approaches for the prevention of disease and ill health.
The original focus of epidemiological research was on infections and deficiencies. In the middle of the 20th century epidemiologists began to look also at common chronic conditions. Great advances have been made in the understanding of the factors affecting the prevalence and risk of such diseases.
Epidemiological research examines the prevalence of various diseases within a population and investigates if there is a correlation with, for example, exposure to hormones, radiation, infectious agents, stress or cigarette smoke, and with conditions such as myocardial infarction, lung cancer, obesity, hypertension etc. This knowledge is then used to develop approaches to disease prevention.
Sweden has unique prerequisites for the pursuit of epidemiological research thanks to our long tradition of personal identity numbers, and a wide variety of registries and biobank collections. This enables research based on very large populations. In addition to biobanks, KI also houses the Swedish Twin Register.
Epidemiological methodology plays an important role in a number of areas of medical research. Important advances have been made by researchers from KI in environmental medicine, occupational medicine and social medicine. At KI epidemiological studies are currently taking place into, amongst other things, the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, cancer and the interactions between genetic factors and the environment. We are also investigating risk factors in the development of allergy in children. Other research at KI has importance, both domestically and internationally, for the risk assessment of airborne pollution, radon and electromagnetic fields.
Epidemiological methodology has been essential in the evaluation of clinical treatments and preventative actions, for example, the mammography programme. Epidemiology has an important role to play as the demands for efficiency and cost-effectiveness increase the need for healthcare research.
Epidemiological methodology is also necessary for molecular biology and molecular genetics as new biological information becomes available. An understanding of the interactions between heredity and environment, childhood and other living conditions can provide insights into the causes of disease.
Epidemiological methodology also makes important contributions to clinical research when investigating treatment outcomes, prognosis and side-effects.
Modern epidemiological studies result in large quantities of data that have to be subject to statistical analysis. Biostatistics is one tool in the epidemiology tool-box; it is the collective name for a number of statistical methods and models that have been developed for the design, analysis and interpretation of data from large-scale studies.
Public Health Sciences
Public Health Sciences include research studies in order to understand national diseases in society and their connection to way of life and environmental factors. Researchers in International Health are concerned with health problems that are common around the world but rare or never seen in Sweden.
The goal of public health sciences is to manage current threats to public health and problems in the health service system.
In public health sciences, epidemiological methods are often used to clarify diseases occurrence and possible connections with genetic, life-style and environmental factors.
Research in occupational medicine includes how the individual recovers from illness and disease. Also factors behind increasing sick leaves and early retirements are studied, as well as connection between different diseases occurrence and possible connections in health with different professions and groups in society.
Research in international health concerns health problems which often are related to poverty in low income countries. International health issues have wide causes and research therefore is multi disciplinary.
The research area comprises mainly HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, diarrhoea, pneumonia, sexual and reproductive health, adolescents' health and development), the use of pharmaceuticals and the consequences and causes of deliberate and unintentional injuries, as well as the "Know-Do-Gap" (which is concerned with the failure to use existing knowledge in medical practise).
Examples of projects are research in pregnancy-related diseases and research on the organisation of health care. Research is conducted in cooperation with countries in Africa, Asia and Middle America.