Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Epidemiology and biostatistics are two interrelated scientific disciplines that together aim to improve the health and well-being of populations through research and public health practice. The Canadian Society of Epidemiology and Biostatistics (CSEB) is a professional organization that works to strengthen the interdisciplinary collaboration between epidemiology and biostatistics and to bridge research and practice through close collaboration with other groups, such as the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), Health Canada, the Association of Public Health Epidemiologists in Ontario (APHEO), the Saskatchewan Epidemiology Association (SEA), and the Statistical Society of Canada (SSC).
Epidemiology is the scientific study of the patterns, causes and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations. It is the cornerstone of public health and, together with statistical methods, provides the evidence for health-policy decisions.
What Epidemiologists Do–Epidemiologists engage in surveillance activities to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. They also conduct studies to investigate the causes of disease to reduce the risk of future disease development. Epidemiologists report their findings to public policy officials or publish the results of their research.
Statistics is the science of learning from data. It is the scientific study of how to collect, analyse, interpret and present data objectively in the presence of uncertainty. Statistics is the scientific method that allows us to draw conclusions from experimental datasets and together with epidemiology allows us to generalize information from the participants in a study to the overall population of interest.
What Statisticians Do–Statisticians use mathematical techniques to analyze and interpret data and draw conclusions.
Biostatistics is the application of statistical methods to research in medicine (clinical trials), public health, epidemiology or biology.
Statistical epidemiology is an emerging combination of the disciplines of epidemiology and biostatistics that aims to bring more statistical rigour to the field of epidemiology.
Though epidemiological degree programs include a requirement for coursework in biostatistics, and statisticians hoping to work in the health field are strongly encouraged to take epidemiological courses, these remain separate degree programs depending on the primary area of study and lead to different career paths.
Epidemiological and biostatistical training emphasizes epidemiology methods and the design and analysis of epidemiology studies.
Statistical/biostatistical programs address the need for additional training in theoretical statistics. This training on the theoretical properties of analytical methods provides statisticians the specialized training needed for the analysis of complex epidemiology studies.
The additional depth and breadth of statistical training required for more complex analyses is recognized by the SSC Accreditation Program for professional statisticians. The “A.Stat.” designation indicates that the holder has completed a course of study equivalent to a major or honours degree in statistics. The “P.Stat.” designation indicates that the holder has the necessary academic qualifications and a minimum of six years of professional experience in the application of statistics.