Role of Biostatistics in Public Health, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Biostatistics is a field of scientific inquiry that involves applying statistical information to various aspects of biology (Stebbins, 2011). Biostatistics are used in a variety of ways; one of the most common applications for biostatistics is in the realm of Public Health. The area of Public Health views a population, rather than an individual, as a patient. Whereas a family physician will provide medical examinations and perform various tests on his or her individual patients, a practitioner of biostatistics will examine various populations to determine the answers to biological or medical questions. Biostatistics can be used, for example, to determine the rate of occurrence or prevalence of a particular disease in persons within a particular age range, gender, or ethic group.

Biostatistics is not a new field; the application of biostatistics to the field of medical sciences dates back well over a century. It is a fundamental component of Darwinian evolutionary theory, for example, as statistical information about populations is used to make predictions about the development of traits or characteristics, and provides a contextual framework for understanding the selective changes within populations that typify evolutionary theory.

Biostatistics are useful in epidemiological studies, such as those studies that attempt to determine what populations are susceptible to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other common diseases. Biostatistics are applicable in a variety of other areas, such as Health Services Research. This field examines the way different populations get access to health care, looking at such factors as social status, financial position, ethnicity, and individual behaviors influence how and if members of certain populations can gain access to health care, and how effective such care is. In a sense, many of the different ways that biostatistics are applied fall under the larger umbrella of Public Health; generally speaking, biostatics in this context are concerned with understanding and preventing disease within populations.

The Centers for Disease Control uses biostatistics as a core component of their efforts to understand and prevent diseases. Diabetes serves as perfect example of a disease wherein biostatics are a fundamental part of prevention; the CDC maintains a National Diabetes Surveillance System that gathers statistics about the prevalence of the disease within different populations, other diseases that are often seen in patients with diabetes, and other statistical data that, when analyzed, can provide a deeper understanding of how to control and prevent the disease (cdc.org).

According to the U.S. department of Health and Human Services, Africa-Americans are 77% more likely than non-Hispanic whites to develop diabetes (niddk.org). The use of biostatistics can be helpful in discerning the implications of such numbers; for example, where a correlation between poverty and ethnicity is present, an analysis of relevant data may help to determine whether the higher rate of diabetes is purely related to the ethnicity of the population in question; whether poverty is the primary factor; or whether some combination of the two factors has resulted in the statistical spike in the studied population.

The startling rate at which African-Americans suffer from diabetes as compared to non-Hispanic whites has spurred several friends of my family to discuss the matter with their physicians. For those at risk for diabetes, lifestyle changes can often be helpful in preventing the disease. The two most commonly-suggested changes for those at risk of developing diabetes are related to diet and exercise. Because diabetics have difficulty processing sugars in their diet, physicians recommend that those in at-risk populations restrict their intake of sugar-heavy foods. Exercise is also helpful, as those who are overweight –and not just overweight African-Americans- are also at a higher than average risk of developing diabetes.

The fact that medical science has been able to pinpoint the risk factors related to diabetes, and understand which populations are at higher than average risk for the disease, shows how useful biostatistics are. Without the larger overview of diabetes and the related biostatistical data, much of the information currently used to prevent and control the disease would be unavailable. In terms of epidemiology and disease prevention in general, biostatistics are not just helpful; they are an integral and crucial component. It is for these reasons that the field of biostatistics is goring in importance, and that most major medical schools have developed courses in the field.

References

Diabetes Public Health Resource http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/consumer/research.htm

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/statistics/#Racial

Stebbins, Samuel. Public health area of concentration: a model for integration into medical school curricula. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 41(4). October 2011.

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