Role of epidemiology studies in the development of public health care policies

By Avishek Majumder & Diksha Tomer on October 11, 2018

Epidemiology-based health care policies are systematic and objective assessments of the science including meta-analyses, decision analyses, and economic evaluations and involve primarily quantitative evidence (Barata, 2013). It is now evident from the previous article that; epidemiology has a major role in the development of public healthcare policies. According to Spasoff, (1999), key roles of epidemiology in the formation of public health care policies are;

  • Determine which populations are high risk.
  • To assess the efficacy of interventions for better health outcomes among populations.
  • Assess the scaling up effective programs, and policies.
  • To assess the efficacy of drug interventions and clinical approaches to the betterment of health.
  • Compare the factors causing diseases and the prevalence and recurrence probabilities.

Thus, this article presents only the importance of epidemiology in health care policy implementation and their role.

Types of epidemiological studies responsible for public healthcare policy development (Rogers & Weiss, 2016)
Types of epidemiological studies responsible for public health care policies development (Rogers & Weiss, 2016)

Clinical trials for health care

They help in assessing the efficacy of various drug-based interventions for infectious or non-infectious diseases. It also helps in assessing the efficacy of different populations (Rogers & Weiss, 2016). This helps the authorities to plan for research-based investments and plan health care expenditures.

Field trials

Field trials are studies carried out on the ground or on the field amongst populations without the risk of diseases. This trial helps in assessing if an intervention reduces the risk of developing a disease. Thus, allows implementation and formation of public health care policies based on intervention findings and increasing awareness and health care services (Rogers & Weiss, 2016).

Randomized trials

In this type of trial, the population are randomly assigned to one of two or more therapies or intervention methods and then treated in an identical manner (Rogers & Weiss, 2016). This helps in assessing how different population groups react to the same intervention and the effect of the intervention on public health care policies. This again helps in policy formation for effective treatment methods and eradication of diseases.

Cohort studies

Cohort studies help in observational epidemiology, whereby population remains exposed to either risk factors or unexposed. The trend of effect then followed over time to determine the occurrence of the disease (Rogers & Weiss, 2016). Thus, it helps estimate and improve the preparedness of reoccurrence of diseases and implementing an effective policy.


This type of study helps in determining if an exposure is associated with an outcome or a disease. Thus, the study helps to compare patients who have a disease or outcome of interest with patients who do not have the disease or outcome and plan intervention methods or preventive measures in the health policy (Rogers & Weiss, 2016).

Cross-sectional study

This is a type of observational study design, where epidemiological measures help assess the outcome and the exposures in the study participants at the same time (Rogers & Weiss, 2016). This helps in estimating the prevalence of diseases and their trend over time.

Ecological studies

Another observational study design, where the causal of a disease is studied and its factors from the environment are assessed (Rogers & Weiss, 2016). This study also makes a comparison of groups, rather than individuals in order to assess the factors that impact or cause the emergence of certain diseases and accordingly plan for public health care policies.

Mortality and demographic studies

These are basically descriptive and frequency based studies where population statistics are assessed on the basis of the deaths based on diseases and their trend over the years (Rogers & Weiss, 2016). This helps in policy making to assess effective intervention mentions and improve health care services.

The contribution of epidemiology to health care policies

The important contributions of epidemiology to the preparation of public health care policies are population, health and prevention, health services and health information (Gordis, 2000).

The contribution of epidemiology to health care policies
The contribution of epidemiology to health care policies

Public health care policies play a key role in improving population health and in the control of diseases, including non-communicable diseases. Public health care policies provide one of the primary means for a society to organize its efforts to protect and improve population health. However, public health care policies should be directed by evidence from epidemiological studies (Barata, 2013). Epidemiologic studies have shown evidence of the prevalence of various infectious and non-infectious diseases. This helps in the understanding and assessing the needs for a health policy. Evidence-based health care policies provide a better approach to implementing policy interventions and get better outcomes for the study.

Policy epidemiology, therefore, uses epidemiological studies for designing and managing the healthcare of populations as the main objective of a public health policy. Epidemiology also contributes to the distribution and determinants of health and disease in specified populations and the needful actions (World Health Organization, 2009). Another important contribution of the epidemiological study is the promotion of health, prevention, and control of disease, the design of healthcare services to meet population needs and the elaboration of health policy.

Model for health policy analysis

Health policy analysis and implementation model (World Health Organization, 2009)
Health policy analysis and implementation model (World Health Organization, 2009)

World Health Organization (WHO 2009), has mandated a model for governments and authorities globally to follow the model for successful implementation of public healthcare policies. The model presents that any health care policy is based on four main aspects:

  1. Environment,
  2. human biology,
  3. healthcare infrastructure,
  4. and lifestyle.

These aspects also help the authority to evaluate the efficacy of the public healthcare policies and plan for a new one or update the existing one. Epidemiological data of these main four factors help to form a healthcare policy as well as update an existing one. WHO instructs to follow this model by every country for an effective epidemiology based healthcare policy for its public. This help to not only control emerging infectious or non-infectious diseases but also to promote better healthcare.


  • Barata, R. B. (2013). Epidemiology and public policies. Revista Brasileira de Epidemiologia, 16(1), 1–14.
  • Gordis, L. (2000). Epidemiology and public policy, 2nd(18), 277–288.
  • Rogers, A. J., & Weiss, S. T. (2016). Epidemiologic and Population Genetic Studies. In Clinical and Translational Science: Principles of Human Research: Second Edition (pp. 313–326).
  • Spasoff, R. (1999). Epidemiologic Methods for Health Policy (1st ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • World Health Organization. (2009). Applicaton of epidemological principles for public health action. New Delhi.


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