Epidemiology has a number of benefits as well as some limitations in relation to measuring health status and informing health promotion. Epidemiology uses statistics to provide a snapshot of a populations diseases, illnesses and disability. This snapshot is then used by various people and groups to inform health promotion and guide research.
Epidemiology’s benefits include identifying areas of strength and weakness for a population’s health. For example, Australia has a high life expectancy for both males and females is a strength, but we have an increasing number of people getting diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Epidemiology helps us to identify the major causes of mortality and morbidity across Australia and smaller population groups, such as people of low socioeconomic status or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples. It gives us information about how people use our health care system and helps identify outbreaks in certain diseases or illnesses.
However, epidemiology is limited. Although it provides us with a snapshot of disability, disease and illness across our country, it does not measure the positive aspects of health, such as how socially connected people are. It may tell us how much physical activity people do but does not inform us of the quality of that physical activity. Nor does epidemiology tell us about the quality of life people are living. It can report on self-reported happiness, but beyond this, it is limited in how to determine what is making people happy.
Epidemiology is vital for your understanding of health priorities in Australia. It is used to guide what is focused on for health promotion, who the health promotion targets, where the health promotion is needed, how the health promotion is delivered and when to deliver it. It helps us identify priority population groups, priority chronic diseases, disabilities and injuries. It shows us the burden of diseases along with their prevalence and incidence.