Preview - Measuring Health Status

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Study Notes

1. Role of Epidemiology

– Epidemiology is the study of sickness, disease and death in a population

– It provides us with information on the distribution patterns of illness, disease and injury and the likely determinants of these within specific groups or populations

– This epidemiological information can then be used by governments and health organisations to analyse the effectiveness of their health services and facilities

– Some examples of epidemiological sources used to study the health of population groups are:

• SPANS (Schools Physical Activity and Nutritional Survey)

• AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare)

• ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics)

2. Measures of epidemiology (mortality, infant mortality, morbidity, life expectancy)


– Number of deaths in a population group or from a particular disease or over a certain time.

E.g. According to the ABS, in 2010 there were 11,704 males and 10,004 females who died of heart disease. Death rates may also be measured as a standardised rate of deaths per 100,000 of the population. (Australian Bureau Statistics, 2010)

Infant Mortality:

– Number of infant deaths in the first year of life per 1000 live births

– Is the most important indicator of health status of a population

– According to the ABS, infant mortality rates has been declining steadily since 1941


– The incidence or rate of illness, disease or injury in a population group

– Illness, disease and injury decreasing quality of life, either temporarily or permanently but not result in death

– Indicators of morbidity are; records from hospitals, Doctors/Medicare and official health surveys and reports.

Life Expectancy:

– The average length of time (measured in years) that a person can expect to live from birth in a specific year.

E.g. Australians born in 2007 were expected to live 80.2 years. This is predicted from the current death rate.

– Common indicator of health status of a population

– Luckily Australia has high life expectancy due to lower infant mortality rates, declining death rates for CVD, declining rates for cancer and declining rates from traffic accidents

3. What can epidemiology can tell us:

– The prevalence of a disease(the number of cases of an illness within a specific population at a given point in time)

– The incidence of a disease (the number of new cases in a specific area over a certain period of time)

– Determine if a health problem exists and justify further investigation

– Help identify major causes of illness, disease or death to assist in addressing any existing or emerging health issues.

– Evaluate health promoting behaviour that assists in disease control or prevention.

– Determine priority issues or areas for allocation of government spending.

– Identify areas of health improvement. This would affirm successful health policies or strategies by Governments of Health-related Organisations

– Evaluate the effectiveness of prevention or treatment program

4. Who uses epidemiology measures?:

– Policy designers in all levels of government

– Manufacturers of health products (e.g. drug companies)

– Providers of health services (e.g. Doctors, Hospitals and Medicare.

5. Do they measure everything about health status?

– No. Epidemiology does not:

• tell us the severity of illness or in some cases the severity of disease

• tell us the real quality of life or the impact illness and disease has on the quality of life

• tell us why we get sick

• account for health determinants (social, economic, environmental and cultural)

• tell us why health inequities exist

• tell us how governments and health-related organisations should spend their money to best tackle health issues