How healthy are we? How do we know?
According to a recent 2016 Health Status Report, 90 percent of Canadians indicated they have good to excellent health. That’s very promising news, especially when you consider that Canada’s average life expectancy of 82 years makes us as one of the healthiest nations in the world. Such indicators reflect well on the social, environmental and economic factors that both support and influence our health and well being as Canadians.
But before we get too comfortable, maybe we should check out the whole story.
What’s our projected health status for the future? Unfortunately there are some worrisome trends…
In recent years the number of Canadians living with diabetes has almost doubled from 6% to 10%. This could be a telling indicator of bigger problems as type 2 diabetes is linked to higher proportions of individuals with unhealthy diets, low physical activity and higher rates of obesity. These conditions, in turn, can often be associated with higher rates of other diseases.
So how can we make sense of it all? How healthy are we? This is where epidemiological skills are key.
Epidemiology in concerned with the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events within a given population. Epidemiological research will ask – What are the potential health problems in society? Who is at risk? What are the trends and patterns over time and as recorded through health service providers? This research seeks to understand the relationships, trends and causes of ill health through the use of specific methodological tools and techniques. With answers provided through the application of epidemiology, societies can make informed decisions and address the evolving needs of new health policies to support improved health for our entire population.
The ability to address these questions by analyzing health data and understand epidemiological studies 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.”