There are seven departments here at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, and six of them are fairly self-explanatory:
(1) Biostatistics (BIOSTAT) – the application of statistical methodology to biology (or more specifically, health)
(2) Environmental Health Sciences (EHS) – the study of how the environment (nature, chemicals, occupation, school, home, etc.) affects human health
(3) Health Behavior and Health Education (HBHE) – asks questions such as: “are hand-washing signs in bathrooms effective?” and “how can we best promote healthy habits and programs?”
(4) Health Informatics (HI) – health data management
(5) Health Management and Policy (HMP) – running hospitals and proposing laws
(6) Nutritional Sciences (NUTR) – essentially… you are what you eat
But then, we go Greek…
(7) Epidemiology (EPID)
As a result, a typical conversation in my life goes like this:
Person: “You’re a graduate student, that’s cool. What are you studying?”
So here we go. Please, bear with me as I break out my middle school grammar.
epi- over, above, on, upon
demio- people, population
-logy to speak, study
epi + demio + logy- to study that which is upon the people
What is upon the people you ask? Disease.
However, us epidemiologists typically use a more descriptive definition of what we do:
Epidemiology – the study of the distribution and determinants of disease within a population
The two main questions in epidemiology are:
- Where is disease in a population? (distribution)
- What causes disease in a population? (determinants)
So go forth and use your new knowledge wisely!