Measures Used in Epidemiology

Measures Used in Epidemiology

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 One important application of epidemiology is to identify factors that could increase the likelihood of a certain health problem occurring within a specific population. Epidemiologists use measures of effect to examine the association or linkage in the relationship between risk factors and emergence of disease or ill health. For instance, they may use measures of effect to better understand the relationships between poverty and lead poisoning in children, smoking and heart disease, or low birth weight and future motor skills. The following are some common measures used in epidemiology:


  • Odds ratio: The odds ratio quantifies the association between an independent variable (exposure) and a dependent variable (outcome). It is calculated as the odds that an effect will occur given the presence or exposure to a studied variable, compared to the odds when there is no exposure (e.g., lung cancer and smoking)
  • Risk ratio (also called relative risk): Also quantifies the association between an independent variable and a dependent variable. The risk of an effect occurring in one population versus another population (e.g., preeclampsia in women <35 versus >35). Risks greater than one suggest that exposure to a given variable is associated with an increase in the risk of the outcome, and a risk ratio of less than one indicates that the exposure is associated with a decrease in the risk of the outcome.
  • Mortality: Measure of deaths in a particular population during a specified time interval. If this is attributed to a specific cause, it is referred to as cause-specific mortality.
  • Morbidity: Measure of instances of illness or disability in a population from a given cause (e.g., heart disease) during a specified time interval
  • Incidence: The occurrence of new cases of an effect or disease in a population over a defined time period relative to the size of the population at risk (e.g., new cases of COVID-19 in a population over a 7-day period/1000 people)
  • Prevalence: The number of all cases of an effect or disease, not just new ones, in a population at a given time relative to the size of the population (e.g., number of people with autism/1000)

What is the significance of these measures of effect for nursing practice? In this Discussion, you will consider this pivotal question.

To prepare:

  • Choose two of the following measures of effect to use for this Discussion. Consider the definitions, differences, and utility of each.
    • Odds ratio and risk ratio
    • Mortality and morbidity
    • Incidence and prevalence
  • Consider how these epidemiologic measures strengthen and support nursing practice.
  • Assess practice limitations of not using these measures in nursing practice.
  • Conduct additional research in the Walden Library and other credible resources, and then locate two examples in the scholarly literature that support your insights.
By Day 3 of Week 5

Post a cohesive scholarly response that addresses the following:

  • Explain how your selected measures of effect strengthen and support nursing practice. Provide at least two specific examples from the literature to substantiate your insights.
  • Assess limitations of not using measures of effect in nursing practice.


You must proofread your paper. But do not strictly rely on your computer’s spell-checker and grammar-checker; failure to do so indicates a lack of effort on your part and you can expect your grade to suffer accordingly. Papers with numerous misspelled words and grammatical mistakes will be penalized. Read over your paper – in silence and then aloud – before handing it in and make corrections as necessary. Often it is advantageous to have a friend proofread your paper for obvious errors. Handwritten corrections are preferable to uncorrected mistakes.
Use a standard 10 to 12 point (10 to 12 characters per inch) typeface. Smaller or compressed type and papers with small margins or single-spacing are hard to read. It is better to let your essay run over the recommended number of pages than to try to compress it into fewer pages.

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