Cuyamaca College Defining Patterns and Problems in Health Essay

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Cuyamaca College



Part of public health is defining patterns and problems in health. That is the subset of public health called epidemiolgy. Here is a great definition of epidemiology from the CDC 1.

"By definition, epidemiology is the study (scientific, systematic, and data-driven) of the distribution (frequency, pattern) and determinants (causes, risk factors) of health-related states and events (not just diseases) in specified populations (neighborhood, school, city, state, country, global). It is also the application of this study to the control of health problems (Source: Principles of Epidemiology, 3rd Edition (Links to an external site.)).

This lesson focuses on Distribution (where) and Determinants (why). We can use these simple strategies to discover about the health of our communities.


First watch this great TED talk on Cholera in London. It is surprisingly entertaining for such a serious subject. Instead of trusting the convention that illness was caused by smells, he looked at patterns to discover a distribution.

(Links to an external site.)

Then read this. This is a more current article that maps socio-economic and racial factors with heat conditions, a risk for heat stroke and death. They found that people of color are far more likely to live in extreme urban heat zones. (Links to an external site.) 

A big part of studying health is to be able to look at patterns or DISTRIBUTIONS. We need to describe the pattern and what may contribute to it, also known as a DETERMINANT, before an intervention can be designed.

ASSIGNMENT:  Pick a health concern. Describe a NOVEL determinant for it. The determinant (contributor factor) can be any of those discussed in the CDC lecture from last week (behavioral, social, environmental or genetic factors). Then describe  a way to map out the distribution pattern for your health concern (distribution). 

Do not describe someone else's study or a historical problem, think of your own. For example don't say you want to look at smokers and lung cancer OR DIABETES AND OBESITY. This has already been done. BE A DETECTIVE. THINK OF SOMETHING INTERESTING TO YOU.

Do not pick more than one determinant (ie exercise and diet). One problem/one novel determinant/one way to map or study it.


HERE ARE SOME EXAMPLES of problem outlines

For an environmental factor example,  you  could pick smog (environment) and asthma rates of admission.

Problem: asthma

Determinant: smog 

Distribution Map: map out air quality with asthma hospital admissions in different counties

For a community factor,  I recall studying mapping the lack of grocery stores in poor neighborhoods contributing to health outcomes due to lack of access to vegetables.

Problem: obesity in lower socioeconomic groups

Determinant: lack of fresh fruit/veggies

Distribution Map: map out grocery vs convenience stores in areas with high and low home values to see if lack of access to fresh produce may contribute to obesity

You can even pick a positive determinant that improves a problem.

Problem suicide rate

Determinant community support

Distribution Map: map out the  number of worship houses in an area and compare it to the suicide rate reported in  areas with less.

Don't think too hard! Use those reasons you are taking a class in public health and pick something that interests you!

Or something you love

Problem alzheimers

Determinant Exercise

Distribution Compare runner's alzheimer rate to non

EVERY post should have:

1. This statement outline:


determinant: only ONE!!!! do not list several-it confounds the problem (look that up if you dont know it!)

distribution: The map must compare two factors, your determinant and then not. (Crime where people have bad internet and crime where they don't)

2. A few sentences each describing problem, justifying the determinant and clarifying the distribution.

3. Reference (s)

4. Peer response


The authors of the paper above may have mapped out their project for this assignment as:

problem: heat exposure/heat stroke

determinant: poverty

distribution: map socio-economic status and heat

Heat causes a multitude of public health issues. Heat stroke is an obvious and dangerous one, but there is also increased risk of community problems such as over-burdened hospitals, increased demand on utilities and even increased food borne illnesses (1).

Poverty may present a determinant that increases risk for heat related health problems.  People living in poverty may present with risks of urban living such as high rise apartments in urban areas, lack of community infrastructure and less access to health making them even more vulnerable to the risks of heat exposure.

A way to see if there is a relationship between poverty and heat related risks would be to map out urban heat zones and socioeconomic status from public records.

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Explanation & Answer

View attached explanation and answer. Let me know if you have any questions.

Problem: Alcoholism
Determinant: Genes
Distribution: Map alcohol use disorder to genetics
Alcoholism is a serious concern in the US wi...

I was having a hard time with this subject, and this was a great help.


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