Rates help us compare between populations. Rates can be expressed in different ways from per 100, per 1,000 or per 100,000. One big component of public health is looking at disparity of services, health outcome disparity and people disproportionately impacted. In the end rates, help us make comparisons.
A great course on the basic of epidemiology and COVID-19
A great free course by Johns Hopkins on the basics of COVID-19 and concepts. It is self paced and open to the public for free. For all those who really want to understand what is an Epi curve, what is an infectious disease, what is a reproductive number to why incubation periods matter...
Sarah Baron, Harold Pierce, Dirk Baron, and Tabea Mahler
COVID-19 disease took the public health system and shined a bright light on the terms, practices and history. Every day numbers and rates fill our news feeds, and we are bombarded with shifting messages and projections. This blog will explain some terminology and then answer these questions: what do these numbers mean, why are these strategies in place, and why are public health professionals, journalists and the world watching these numbers daily?
Public health professionals watch for outbreaks
Just like firefighters may watch for a blaze to spark in a forest to control its spread, public health professionals are always on alert to watch for disease outbreaks. In fact, outbreaks occur annually, monthly and even daily across communities all over the world. On a daily basis, health departments and professionals are monitoring diseases to look for outbreaks. For the public health, the key idea is to prevent an outbreak before it spreads and this requires vigilance and dedication.
The key terms for watching a disease grow are:
With COVID-19 this disease moved quickly from an outbreak to an epidemic and now is a pandemic. This is not the world’s first pandemic, however. Public health agencies keep close records on past pandemics to determine what has worked in containing a pandemic. See the history of pandemics in the US here - the history of responses.
Who is in charge? Good Question. There are many people in charge...
In the United States, the public health system has different levels of key players, each with a specific role and limited power.
Two important points:
Why public health people watch them closely
There are three big tenets to public health:
Why are there different numbers at different times of the day?
The data is collected at the local level, then reported to the State level and then in real time uploaded to the Center for Disease control. This is why you see a shift in numbers throughout the day. It depends on when you look at the data and where it was collected. The most up-to-date numbers are at the local health departments or State labs who are tracking cases in real time and then uploading the data in real time to CDC. These cases needed to be considered confirmed and verified prior to publishing the results. Depending on when and where you look, these numbers will shift throughout the day.
Pay attention to how the data is presented. It tells different stories.