"Are Canadians gambling with their health?" This was a question asked in a recent health report card update published by the Conference Board of Canada. The report noted that assessing health performance related to “risk factors such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and respiratory diseases is just as important as assessing its approach to and success with treatment.”
Although Canada performs well against other countries when risk factors such as alcohol and tobacco consumption are considered, life style choices related to physical activity and diet still pose substantial risks. Some studies estimate that one-third of cancers could be prevented with improved diet, physical activity and maintenance of body weight.
Dramatic findings! But how do we know they are valid?
Without a doubt, measuring health impacts and related outcomes may or may not result in intuitive results. This is particularly important when assessing the relationship between two variables such as physical activity and cancer. It is possible that this relationship could become misrepresented due to the influence of an unanticipated and confounding third factor such as age. As a result, it is critical for health researchers to accurately investigate the many factors that may or may not contribute to negative health outcomes.
This is where epidemiological skills are key to the foundations of comprehensive research. Application of specific methodological tools and techniques ensure that health relationships, trends and ultimate causes of ill health are accurately measured and assessed.
The ability to apply these tools and techniques are key components of what the PHDA 02 Epidemiological Statistics course offers.
Allison Scott is a Research Scientist with the Child and Youth Data Laboratory (CYDL) at Policywise in Alberta. She is a specialist in population health surveillance and epidemiological studies using administrative data and is the instructor for the Epidemiological Statistics course this May. “I have been using administrative data to gain insight into health and health services research for many years and I really value the importance of conducting policy-relevant research. I’m excited to share my knowledge and passion for health data analysis with my student colleagues in the upcoming Epidemiological Statistics (PHDA 02) course.”