Principles of Public Health

Public Health Paper: Epidemiology
As discussed in class, epidemiology is at the very heart of public health and prevention. Public health
professionals use epidemiological studies to verify connections between exposures and disease, and
often derive information that proves critical in the prevention of illness and death. In performing or
examining epidemiological studies, one must grapple with the facts and study design to determine
whether the study was victim to potentially significant flaws, thereby making it less effective in proving a
hypothesis.
During our epidemiology lecture, we discussed the main differences between several types of studies
(i.e., case control, cohort, clinical trial, cross-sectional). We also reviewed factors like confounding, bias,
chance and causation criteria – potential problems that may skew information in a study and, in fact,
could invalidate its results.
Your assignment will be a review of an epidemiological study for its characteristics and validity, and
discussion of possible flaws in study design that may have contributed to the study’s findings, or lack
thereof. In general, consider the comparability among subject groups, methods used, any errors that
may have been committed, and the magnitude of the effect caused by the error.
To complete the assignment, you will read a brief epidemiological study (Lyme Disease Study), which is
available through our course website at www.sakai.rutgers.edu, and critique it using the criteria below.
You will also be required to read materials on epidemiological study design and flaws, which may be
found on the course website (Epidemiology Reading Packet).
Use these readings, as well as the cursory information from our epidemiology lecture, to write a three
page, single-spaced critique of this study. Note: It will negatively affect your grade if you try to
evaluate the study using only class epidemiology notes and do not incorporate the assigned readings
into your evaluation of the study. You will be expected to address the following issues, as well as any
other characteristics of the study that you feel help characterize it, either positively or negatively:
Collection of Data:
x Why was the study done? (what was the author’s goal or hypothesis)
x What type of study was it? (i.e., case-control, cohort, etc.)
x How was the sample size determined?
x How were the study subjects selected? Does this sampling method seem reasonable?
x How was the ratio of cases to control subjects determined?
x Could there have been bias in the selection of the subjects, and if so, how likely might this
bias have affected the data?
x Could there have been bias in the collection of information, and if so, how could this
observation bias have affected the data?
x Establish whether there’s a cause-effect relationship
Analysis of Data:
x Describe and criticize methods used to control confounding
x Describe and criticize methods used to measure the association between exposure and
disease (i.e., odds-ratio, relative risk)
Interpretation of Data:
x Present the major results of the study
x How might bias, confounding or chance have affected the results?
x To whom (what population) might the results of this study be generalized?
Your paper should read fluidly, with an introduction, bullet point answers addressing these points and
any others you feel are germane to the paper objectives, and a conclusion/summary. If you have any
questions, please do not hesitate to call or email me. Papers are due by 6:10pm on Monday, April 29.
Hard copy papers should be provided at the beginning of class, and I would also recommend submission
via Dropbox in advance of class.
Please note and adhere to the last sentence of the prior paragraph so you don’t face scrutiny for: A.
Showing up an hour late for class to turn in your paper, advising that something went wrong at the
computer lab; or B. Telling me that you had a malfunction on your home computer or printer when you
clicked ‘Print,’ or C. Seeking clemency or forgiveness after sharing whatever other reason you may have
for late submission. Your safeguard (besides completing the paper in advance of the due date, rather
than the last second) is to submit your assignment electronically via Dropbox prior to 6:00pm. –

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