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Use Epidemiology as a Tool to Fight COVID-19 | Opinion

The Hindustan Times referenced Dr. Roger Detels, distinguished research professor of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, in a commentary about how best to fight the pandemic in India. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

A highly placed clinical specialist recently said that epidemiologists are busy projecting numbers because that is what they do. This is a misleading assumption. Epidemiologists aim to prevent and control epidemics of diseases. Epidemiology, as our doctoral mentor Dr Roger Detels defines it, is the basic science of public health, because it describes the relationship of health or disease with other health-related factors, like human pathogens, in human populations. The crisis caused by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) is a good example to show that, if the epidemiology is not properly understood, it can bring lethal consequences.

Countering the adverse impacts of Covid-19 requires two types of measures: Containment and mitigation.

Consider, for example, the absolute burden of cases as a big balloon. Containment, in this case, refers to the amount of air added into the ballon, while mitigation means controlling the speed at which the air is filled into it. To prevent strain on the public health system with limited resources, we aim to ensure that the balloon is never full.