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Mar 29

Eight Recommendations to Transform 21st Century Epidemiology

Trends in 21st Century Epidemiology: From Scientific Discoveries to Population Health ImpactIn 2012, the Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program (EGRP) initiated a longitudinal conversation in the scientific community to examine the current state of epidemiology and identify goals for the future of the field. EGRP staff used the comments, suggestions, and expert presentations from that conversation to develop eight recommendations, grouped by theme, that can inform future actions and objectives. An article published online in advance of the April issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention (CEBP), “Transforming Epidemiology for 21st Century Medicine and Public Health,” outlines these recommendations and proposed corresponding actions for consideration by funding agencies, professional societies, and the research community. The article is part of a series of CEBP commentaries that respond to an NCI initiative to advance epidemiologic science; the complete list of articles in the series will be accessible through the CEBP website.

Although the recommendations are focused on cancer epidemiology, EGRP believes they can be applied broadly to the field of epidemiology as a whole, and will serve as a strong scientific foundation to accelerate translation of scientific discoveries into individual and population health benefits. The eight recommendations are as follows:

  1. Extend the reach of epidemiology to include development and evaluation of clinical and population interventions, implementation, dissemination, and outcomes research.
  2. Provide greater access to data, metadata, and specimens to foster collaboration, ensure reproducibility, replication, and accelerate translation to population health impact.
  3. Expand cohort studies across the lifespan and include multiple health outcomes.
  4. Develop, evaluate, and use novel technologies to quantify exposures and outcomes on a large scale and assess multiple factors in complex diseases.
  5. Develop systematic approaches to manage, analyze, display, and interpret large, complex datasets.
  6. Expand knowledge integration to drive research, policy, and practice.
  7. Transform epidemiology training by emphasizing team science, multilevel analyses, knowledge integration and translation.
  8. Develop and design rational, cost-effective resources to optimize funding for epidemiologic studies, accelerate translation, and maximize health impact.

The eight broad recommendations and corresponding proposed actions are intended to transform cancer epidemiology by enhancing transparency, multidisciplinary collaboration, and strategic applications of new technologies. The recommendations apply more broadly to the field of epidemiology, and should lay a strong scientific foundation for accelerated translation of scientific discoveries into individual and population health benefits. More details about the recommendations can be found in CEBP article.

Although EGRP is currently considering changes to its own programs in support of these guidelines, the task of transforming epidemiology is obviously not a task for any single organization. We are interested in hearing from other funding agencies, academic institutions, individual investigators, and others in the scientific, health, and consumer communities regarding how we can best address these challenges and opportunities.  We invite ongoing conversation on how to strengthen the future of epidemiology, and are specifically interested to hear suggestions for how these recommendations might be implemented. Feel free to leave your comments in the space below or join us for a discussion of these recommendations at the Molecular Epidemiology Town Meeting during the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in April 2013.

EGRP’s Workshop Science Advisory Group

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