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Definition of Terms

Epidemiology
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• agent
A causative factor, such as a biological or
chemical agent that must be present (or absent)
in the environment for disease occurrence in a
suspectible host.
• analytic epidemiologic studies
Study designs that examine groups of individuals
in order to make comparisons and associations
and to determine causal relationships; also
known as cohort, cross-sectional, and case-
control studies.
• attack rate
The number of cases of disease in a specific
population divided by the total population at risk
for a limited time period, usually expressed as a
percentage.
• attributable risk percentage (ARpercentage)
A statistical measure that estimates the number
of cases of a disease attributable to the
exposure of interest.
• bias
An error in the study design caused by the tendency of
researchers to expect certain conclusions on the basis of
their own personal beliefs that results in incorrect
conclusions regarding the association between potential
risk factors and disease occurrence.
• case fatality rate
Refers to deaths from a specific disease.
• case reports
Client (case) history studies used in epidemiologic
descriptive studies.
• case series
A compilation of case reports.
• case-control study
An analytic epidemiologic study design that
assembles study groups after a disease has
occurred; also called a retrospective study.
• cause-specific death rate
Number of deaths from a specific cause;
expressed as a number per 100,000 population.
• chemical agents
Includes poisons and allergens.
• cohort study
An analytic epidemiologic study design that assembles
study groups before disease occurrence to observe and
compare the rates of a health outcome over time; also
called a prospective study.
• correlational study
A descriptive epidemiologic study design used to
compare aggregate populations for potential exposures
of disease.
• cross- sectional survey
A descriptive epidemiologic study design that uses a representative
sample of the population to collect information on current health
status, personal characteristics, and potential risk factors or
exposures at one point in time.
• Demography
The statistical science or study of populations, related to age-
specific categories, birth and death rates, marital status, and
ethnicity.
• descriptive epidemiologic studies
Epidemiologic study designs that contribute to the description of a
disease or condition by examining the essential features of person,
place, and time.
• disease frequency
Occurrence of disease as measured by various
rates such as morbidity rate.
• ecology
The study of relations and interactions among all
organisms within the total environment; in
community health, the individual’s interaction with
his or her social, cultural, and physical
environments.
• environment
Internal and external factors that constitute the context for agent-
host interactions; the aspect of existence perceived outside the self;
this perception changes with alterations in awareness and
expansion of consciousness; one of the concepts of nursing
metaparadigm.
• epidemic
A number of cases of an infectious agent or disease (outbreak)
clearly in excess of the normally expected frequency of that disease
in that population.
• epidemiology
An applied science that studies the distribution and determinants of
health-related states or events in populations.
• false-negative test
A screening test result that is negative when the
individual actually has the disease of interest.
• false-positive test
A screening test result that is positive when the
individual does not have the disease of interest.
• host
A person or living species capable of being infected.
• incidence rate
The rate of new cases of a condition or disease in a
population in a specified time period; provides an
estimate of the condition/disease risk in that population.
• infectious agents
Bacteria, fungi, viruses, metazoa, and protozoa.
• intervention study
Epidemiologic study design that is experimental in nature
and used to test a hypothesis about a cause-and-effect
relationship.
• levels of prevention
A three-level model of intervention (primary, secondary,
tertiary) used in the epidemiologic approach, designed to
prevent or to halt or reverse the process of pathological
change as early as possible in order to prevent damage.
• maternal mortality rate
Deaths of mothers at time of birth, expressed as a
number per 100,000 live births.
• measures of association
Statistical analysis methods used to investigate the
relationship between two or more variables or events.
• morbidity rate
A disease rate, specifically prevalence and incidence rates of
diseases in a population in a specified time period.
• mortality rate
The number of deaths from all causes divided by the total
population at a particular time and place.
• natural history of a disease
The course that a disease would take from onset to resolution
without intervention by humans.
• nutritive elements
Substances such as vitamins or proteins
that, if excessive or deficient, act as an
agent of disease.
• observational studies
Nonexperimental studies that describe,
compare, and explain disease occurrence.
• odds ratio
A statistical measure of association reflecting the
ratio of two odds reflecting the relative risk (RR)
when the specific risk of disease of both the
exposed and the unexposed groups is low.
Calculated when incidence rates are
unavailable.
• physical agents
Agents of disease that must be present or
absent for a problem to occur. Examples include
radiation, excessive sun exposure, and
mechanical agents.
• point prevalence
The total number of persons with a
disease at a specific point of time.
• PRECEDE-PROCEED model
A health–promotion planning framework
useful in applying the epidemiologic
approach to community health planning.
• prevalence rate
A proportion or percentage of a disease or
condition in a population at any given time.
• prevention trials
An epidemiologic intervention study design used
to compare measures or interventions aimed at
the prevention of disease.
• prospective study
An epidemiologic study design that assembles
study groups before disease occurrence.
• relative risk
An epidemiologic measure of association that indicates
the likelihood that an exposed group will develop a
disease or condition relative to those not exposed.
• retrospective study
An epidemiologic study design that assembles study
groups after disease occurrence.
• risk
The probability that an event, outcome, disease, or
condition will develop in a specified time period.
• sensitivity
The probability that an individual who has the disease of interest
will have a positive screening test result.
• specificity
The probability that an individual who does not have the disease
of interest will have a negative screening test result.
• Surveillance
The systematic collection and evaluation of all aspects of disease
occurrence and spread, resulting in information that may be
useful in the control of the disease.
• therapeutic trials
An epidemiologic intervention study design used to compare
measures or interventions aimed at therapeutic benefits.
• vital statistics
Systematically tabulated data on vital events such as births,
deaths, marriages, divorces, adoptions, annulments,
separations, and health events that are based on registration
of these events.