Epidemiology: An introduction
Epidemiology: An introduction

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Epidemiology: An introduction

2.2 Descriptive epidemiology

A large part of the epidemiological task is concerned with surveillance. Public Health Departments and agencies such as the Health Protection Agency quite literally keep watch on the incidence and prevalence of disease in the population. Data on these is collected regularly and routinely from a range of sources throughout the UK. Sources of morbidity data in the community include those listed in Box 3 (all of which can be found on the ONS website [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] ).

Box 2 Sources of morbidity data in the community

  1. Cancer registers These are a national record of newly diagnosed cases of cancer in England and Wales. The following information is recorded: site of the primary tumour and type of growth; place of birth; usual place of residence of patient; age; sex; occupation; social class; initial treatment date; duration of survival and date of death.
  2. Hospital episode statistics These comprise an annual report based on a 25% sample of finished consultant episodes in all NHS hospitals. Data on the principal diagnosis and operative procedure are provided by age, sex and region of the patients.
  3. Psychiatric morbidity Since 1993 a series of surveys on the mental health of the population of Great Britain has been commissioned by the Department of Health, the Scottish Executive and the National Assembly for Wales (or their predecessors). The series began with a survey of the adult population aged between sixteen and 64, living in private households in Great Britain. Since then, additional surveys have covered children aged five to 15, living in private households; prisoners in England and Wales; and five of the main minority ethnic groups in England (Bangladeshi, Black Caribbean, Indian, Irish and Pakistani people), together with a general population White group to provide a point of comparison.
  4. Key health statistics for general practice The report Key Health Statistics from General Practice (Office for National Statistics, 1998) was the third in a series of morbidity and treatment data derived from the General Practice Research Database which holds anonymised, patient-based

Other sources of data include:

  • notifiable industrial diseases
  • notification of congenital malformations
  • Royal College Confidential Inquiries, including suicides and maternal mortality.
(Adapted from Royal Free Medical School, 2001, pp. 84, 85)

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