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Thought of the day: the focus of research

22 Nov

Unlike many other fields such as biomedical sciences, public health research has the potential to make an impact on a population in the very near future. With this comes the importance of having a clear focus within your research and ensuring it is practice orientated. After all, there is no point in doing research for research’s sake! The principle of research is undermined if the outcomes cannot be translated and implemented into action or policy. This is an important aspect for all areas of research in science and arts but is particularly pertinent for public health, which often deals with large populations.

Important UK reviews: a timeline

18 Nov

The UK government has often commissioned independent reviews in response to a scandal or just to guide policy makers. Some of these have stood out over time as turning points in the history of public health in the UK, so I’ve compiled a select few in chronological order. I’d like to be able to summarise/analyse and contextualise them at some point, as  I’ve noticed there aren’t any similar resources on the web aside from journal commentaries which only provide part of the picture. This is maybe a bit too ambitious though….!

1980: The Black Report (Inequalities in Health) link

In a nutshell: Commissioned by Labour and delayed and boycotted by Conservatives. Showed that health inequalities in Britain were increasing despite overall improvements.

1998: Acheson Report (Independent Inquiry into Inequalities in Health Report) link

In a nutshell: Again demonstrated health disparities along a socio-economic gradient.

2001: Bristol Enquiry (The report of the public inquiry into children’s heart surgery at the Bristol Royal Infirmary 1984-1995: learning from Bristol) link

In a nutshell: A seminal report which revealed the importance of patient safety

2006: The Cooksey Review  (A review of UK health research funding) link

In a nutshell: Realisation of the need for a better coordinated research scene in the UK, as well as the need for better translation into policy/action.

2008: Marmot Review (Fair Society, Healthy Lives) link

In a nutshell: Reiterated the importance of socio-economic factors as determinants of health and emphasised the need to tackle health inequalities

2010: The White Paper (Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Our strategy for Public Health in England) link

In a nutshell: Acknowledged the importance of public health and set out the beginnings of the Health and Social Care bill

2010: Francis Report (The Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Enquiry) link

In a nutshell: Pointed out the current issues in the NHS of responsibility, accountability, institutionalised culture and system wide failure.

Epidemiological eureka

13 Oct

It’s nice finally knowing the differences between prospective and retrospective studies… I spent my undergraduate degree in constant confusion and ignorance over the various ways of classifying different epidemiological studies. The first lecture on Epidemiology we had on Tuesday, along with Epidemiology in Medicine by Hennekens and Buring (module core text), has simplified everything! For classifying things, I am an advocate of diagrams to show the hierarchy and precise division of each type of classification, so here’s how I understand epidemiological studies are classified… Correct me if I’m wrong!

Epidemiological study designs: how to organise them!

The hiearchy of epidemiological study design

Descriptive studies

  • Descriptive (implicit) studies describe the general characteristics of the distribution of a disease
  • They can be done fairly quickly and easily
  • They may be used to “allocate resources and plan effective prevention or education programs”
  • They are mostly used to generate hypotheses that are then investigated using analytical studies
  • Can be done at individual level (case reports, case series, and cross sectional surveys) and population level (ecological studies)

Analytical studies

  • Analytical studies (explicit) can estimate the size of the risk of a disease associated with exposure to something (cannot be done with observational studies)
  • They can be classified as observational and intervention analytical studies

That’s my dose of epidemiology for the week… Now onto greater things (watching freak hailstone storms is always fun)