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What is Epidemiology?

Epidemiology deals with the incidence and distribution of diseases and risk factors in populations. With the knowledge gained in studies, epidemiologists aim to promote health and prevent disease.

Adequate knowledge of epidemiological and bio-statistical methods is crucial in almost all fields of public health. It is a prerequisite for scientifically sound data collection and evidence-based interventions. In addition to methodological training in lectures and courses, our group advises scientists and students in planning, conduct, and analysis of quantitative studies, as well as the correct interpretation of the results. In two projects we offer methodological advice to the North Rhine Westphalia scientific board on rehabilitation and the North Rhine Westphalia scientific board on nursing care. We are also engaged in developing methods of planning and implementation of cohort studies as well as validation approaches of surveys and approaches for dealing with incomplete data sets.

Why International Public Health?
In a globalising world, public health is inherently international. Health problems do not stop at international borders, as is shown by the rapid spread of diseases such as SARS. Moreover, public health problems in far-away countries (such as the failure to control transmission of polio virus in some African and Asian countries) has immediate repercussions on public health in Germany (we need to continue immunisation against polio although there have not been any cases in Germany in the past years). Our projects focus on surveillance and prevention of communicable and non-communicable disease, mainly in Mediterranean countries. We support the reconstruction of public health institutions in the countries of the Balkan within the framework of the EU Stability Pact for the region.
In Germany, we investigate the health effects of migration, aiming to collect data supporting appropriate preventive interventions and health promotion. Additionally, the AG3 coordinates the "European Master of Public Health" programme which introduces students to the European and international perspectives and problems of public health.

Environmental Epidemiology (Epidemiology of non-ionizing radiation)
Non-ionizing radiation has gained particular importance for public health because of the continuous increase of mobile telephone systems. Our group is involved in the international INTERPHONE case-control study concerning brain tumours and in a nationwide cross-sectional study for the investigation of disorders which may be triggered by radiotelephone transmitting facilities. In these studies we collaborate with national and international research institutes. Another spotlight is to educate the population about the risks of high frequency electromagnetic fields.

Epidemiology of Chronic Diseases
Non-communicable chronic diseases heavily contribute to the global burden of disease. Our group investigates the role of risk factors for the development of chronic diseases using analytical study designs. Exemplary for these study type are physical risk factors, such as non-ionizing radiation. In addition, we are conducting research on risk factors and intervention approaches for cardiovascular diseases and are analysing health care service data on rheumatic diseases.

Health Information
Health information aims to inform health policy authorities and stakeholders in the health care system on different levels about the health status of the population, health threats and medical services. Health information data may show unmet demands and may help to provide advice for political action. Experts of the public health service are responsible for providing this information. The generation of health reports requires application of epidemiological and statistical know-how as well as knowledge about the data basis and the situation of the geographical area covered.