In a nut shell, epidemiology is the study of illness and disease affecting a population’s health. It is also an applied science specific to the incidence of disease in populations as opposed to the individual. I believe basic knowledge of this highly specialized job can provide individuals with a better understanding in prevention of disease and relative-timely medical referrals for ill-health conditions. My point is if we could learn how to use specific data to our advantage in seeking to identify and treat our ill-health, we would be much more successful at alleviating pain-illness and maintaining better overall health and happiness. This does not mean you need a degree in epidemiology to apply a common sense approach to find resolve to a specific ill-health problem. What it does mean, by understanding how science identifies and treats epidemics in populations; the basic principles of this knowledge can provide the individual a better ill-health troubleshooting skill set that many centurions use to improve upon quality living experiences as they age!
The work of epidemiologists includes researching risk factors in environment that cause illness and disease, clinical identification/study of illness agent, data collection, etc., of infected people and treatment of environmental out breaks on population. What most don’t understand, epidemiologists rely on a vast array of disciplines in order to “best” identify an ill-health outbreak. In order to understand how ill-health is disseminated on a population requires an understanding and mastery by these experts; and those specialized in the fields of biology, sociology, mathematics, statistics, anthropology, psychology and policy (research policy and bureaucracy impact data results and interpretation). So the “one cause-one effect” to illness and death rarely is a single contributor of ill-health on a population. Instead, multiple factors, circumstances and opportunity within environment typically lead to an epidemic that would create the lethal agent outbreak impacting an entire population. If pain alleviation and ill-health prevention wisdom is the result of knowing how to apply some of this basic knowledge; than living to be a healthy centurion is a “more likely than not” goal scenario, is it not?
With a broad range of potential bio-agents and psychosocial cause factors, ill-health agents can attack the physical mind-body from many internal and external cause fronts. Understand that each one of us is a 3-part being that requires a healthy environment which caters to the mind, body and spirit. Also recall, the internal biological neural highways, mind-body (psychosomatic) connection can depress the body’s physical biology and spirit. The same is true of body-spirit pain which can depress the bio-mind making any part of being sick through the psychosomatic connection. We are a 360 degree feedback “being” mechanism. In other words, to make it simple, we all have the ability to think ourselves into ill-health conditions when our internal and external environments depress us through infection worsening a condition for example. We do not become ill due to only biological external environmental agents! And when our “being” is depressed, we are more susceptible to illness and disease agents from multiple environmental cause agents!
Now let’s look at one example where epidemiologists have used their specialized data collection techniques to determine agent cause, treat and save lives in populations, than use this as a model to apply to self.
Before water and food sanitation practices evolved many people got extremely sick from the cholera bacteria. This bacterium dispersed within a population from feces, or other effluents (vomit, diarrhea, etc.) that contaminated their living space; water and food sources, etc. Cholera would not only be in the water source but would then spread to coastal water ways for example and attach itself to shellfish contaminating those whose diet in part was dependent on them. Through consumption of shellfish the bacteria would continue its assault on distant coastal populations. This chain of events could then infect local and distant water/food supplies, dwellings, etc., which infected the body, mind and spirit of individuals, also families in multiple communities.
By “collecting data points” from various near and distant infected social-cultural environments, people, animals, soil samples, water, food, etc., scientist where able to find the common contributing denominator(s) to an epidemic that wiped out huge populations in the past before the Cholera bacteria agent was identified. Once this agent was identified, preventative sanitation and treatment practices were put into effect and outbreaks in civilized populations became nonexistent. Today these specialists collect data and provide consumers and other interest groups risk data and advisement on poor diet, smoking (second hand smoke), sewage-sanitation systems/practices, food preparation/storage, various environmental impact studies, toxic product identification, pandemic containment advisement etc., and the list goes on.
So what can you as an individual take away from this wisdom to apply to self? After all most of us aren’t statistical analysts that have participated in illness and disease epidemic studies. Regardless, there are lessons to be learned and tools that can be used on self, much like the epidemiologist approach in discovery to rid a population of ill-health environmental conditions. So the basic skill set you can improve upon when seeking relative and timely treatment to ill-health signs and symptoms will require you to provide historical and daily data to a treating physician, or specialist. Regardless of whether an illness is acute (infrequent occurrence), or chronic (frequent-consistent occurrence), you must learn to track specific data much like the epidemiologist seeks the cause and effect in finding an ill-health agent afflicting a population. By learning how to target the cause agent a likely solution can be applied to the internal/external threat before it causes further damage to being. What kind of data you ask?
You must begin collecting data on your daily habits, time/day of pain, and frequency of event, duration, signs-symptoms, products/food you consume; identify risky behaviors-habits and things that cause stress in your life. Now you are collecting data that can be shared with those of specific medical knowledge disciplines. Remember a “one cause-one effect” that creates illness in a population is seldom the case. That is, the Cholera a bacterium was born and spread from multiple cause agent carriers; starting through poor sanitation practices. This infected people, food, rodents and water; impacted social activities, wellbeing (quarantined/death) which impacted social/family dynamics in local and distant communities for years thereafter. So where did science start looking first for this culprit? Good question, a process of elimination through data collection and other scientific means of the times. The same is basically true when any patient has complex illness and pain symptoms. By collecting data on your daily habits, signs and symptoms you are providing biological, psychological, diet, physical, statistical and social environmental information that will provide a more likely inference on the cause agent(s) origin to your discomfort and ill-health.
Below are 12 data points of interest you can track for self to share with a physician before consultations; much like an epidemiologist would collect to increase probability of targeting harmful agents by sharing collected data with other specialists to rid a population of a likely cause agent. You too must also do some homework by providing suspected cause agent data to your physician for the best treatment outcome.
Information and Data Cause Agent Source Example/Ideals for the individual: 1) Use the Internet to research your symptoms/treatment solutions and visit chat rooms-forums to learn more about suspected illness and disease. 2) If diagnosed with substantiated illness-disease buy self-help books from experts, or visit your local library for successful treatment solutions/ideals. 3) Talk to parents, siblings and blood relatives to see if there is a genetic ill-health connection, cause and what was the treatment… Did the illness worsen, or improve with treatment? 4) Are your symptoms caused from poor diet? 5) Do you engage in unhealthy habits, i.e., smoking, drinking, poor diet? 6) Are you active, or do you live a sedentary lifestyle? 7) Do you socialize, practice spiritualism, or are you a recluse? 8) Do you encounter daily environmental/product toxins at work/home hobbies, living area etc.? 9) Are you involved in a stressful relationship, job and/or family? 10) Do you take prescription medications, if so what kind & how long? 11) Are you generally depressed? If so, do you understand why? 12) Have you had a past injury, allergy, infection that remains problematic, untreated, causes pain and/or depression?
A process of environmental cause agent elimination can benefit your ill-health quest by collecting these daily data points and plotting them on a graph for example. Simply list your data point suspicions horizontally. Next list each column by the day with a 3 category code in bold: Worse, No Change, or Better. This way you begin to plot data where status change of condition can easily be noted and shared with your treating physician(s).
By becoming knowledgeable of symptoms caused per unique environment, one can begin the process of removing potential cause agent sources out of the equation that may be impacting, or depressing the mind, body and spirit. For example, if you suspect something in your diet is the source of your problem; remove the potential suspect source agent for a couple of weeks to see if this improves your condition(s) plot and code the data points daily. This can easily be done in between consultations which can be shared with treating physician(s). Note: Do not put off seeing a physician before you start this process. Instead, seek medical attention as soon as possible if you feel you have a serious medical condition and chart your medical condition suspicion study simultaneously.
There are many other ways an ill-health cause agent can catch you off guard. But this data collection insight will provide a starting point of suspected agent(s) data when consulting with physicians and specialists. Then again, this is important why? Because all too often we seek medical attention without providing valuable historical, recent signs/symptoms data during the physician consult. This my friend’s leads all too often to untimely and non relative treatment!
You don’t have to have the expertise of an epidemiologist, but only understand the importance of data collection to share with your physicians to better analyze your ill-health conditions. Because in too many cases, we the patient depend too heavily on our doctors to fix, or treat us with a prescription and follow up based on if our signs and symptoms have not improved. This all-too-often quick results treatment removes signs and symptoms temporarily. But it does not address the underlying environmental and habitual cause agents of our ill-health. As you’ve seen, we are much more complicated beings that require a multidiscipline approach to treat and keep us healthy. And in order to determine ill health causal relationships, requires us to also be honest with ourselves by identifying our bad habits, risky behaviors and environmental stressors while taking preventative action to keep our 3-part being healthy. To do otherwise not only risk your good health but also can impact a whole lot of other people.
And through preventative knowledge and timely self advocacy action much pain and suffering in one’s life and family can be mitigated. Many centurion benefits are possible through understanding the epidemiologist’s wisdom of data collection in sharing with various disciplines to rule out the “one cause, one effect” causing illness. If a one cause, one effect is substantiated through medical exam than one knows what one must do to get well. But for a good majority of patients, medical exams “do not” substantiate symptom(s), nor do they correlate well with conventional medical treatment. Often non-substantiated cases of illness, pain, or just feeling bad are treated subjectively as opposed to objectively for lack of medical findings and then prescribed pharmaceuticals. Here lies the problem for many that accept the conventional outpatient consultation protocol. Without self advocacy for relative and timely treatment, data collection-sharing skill sets during physician consultation; insidious illness and disease agents can go unchecked for years.
If you want to experience healthy life benefits, such as quality living conditions, personal comfort, happiness and other quality life experiences with family as you age, there is much to be learned and applied from an epidemiologist wisdom. For the individual and centurion this skill set wisdom is invaluable as a prevention and problem solving tool that you can put to use immediately. This wisdom teaches us to take accountability in keeping our 3-part being healthy by collecting, sharing data, while identifying-advocating for timely and relative treatment when working with our physicians for the “best possible health outcome!”
Author: Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, USA Medical Services Officer, CPT, RET. 2010 Copyright. All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Publishing @: www.mirrorathlete.com, Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.