If you were the state epidemiologist and it was suspected that smoke from the local toy factory was connected to adverse health outcomes among the town’s residents, what type of cohort study would you conduct to further investigate this concern? Why? What limitations exist in your choice of study? Remember to cite sources where necessary. At least 300 words.
The way the prompt has been constructed this week feels like it forces you into selecting one of the cohort study designs. However, this might be rushing it. Remember, each week builds upon a previous week and we should not think that this week occurs in a vacuum.
Prospective cohort studies can be some of the most expensive and powerful study designs that we have in our methodology arsenal. Think about the steps you would need to take prior to using this method. In the prompt, it describes “smoke” however it falls to you as the student to consider regulations and assess whether or not any current regulations have been violated. It can help to look up studies that examine what chemical components can be within smoke and epidemiologically what you would be looking for within your population.
Retrospective studies are quick and dirty. They are cheap and can be conducted in weeks or months. However, the quality and sources of data for this are a huge limitation. Think about what diseases are mandated reportable? Are these diseases influenced by smoke? Think back to our sources of data chapter. What sources of data could be used to investigate specific conditions associated with air pollution? What are those limitations.
What other methods have we read about that might be useful in evaluating our community to even assess if there is an impact?
1. Cross-sectional studies: These can be conducted using medical data or syndromic surveillance data. Are you observing an increase in the diseases associated with the condition? If not, there is probably nothing to be concerned about. Remember, we have these weaker studies because they can be done cheaply and assess if there has been a change in morbidity.
Many students make the error of just saying, I would conduct a cohort study, without considering these above implications. Please consider these as you construct your post this week.