The emergence of translational epidemiology: From scientific discovery to population health impact

  • Khoury M
  • Gwinn M
  • Ioannidis J
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Abstract

Recent emphasis on translational research (TR) is highlighting the role of epidemiology in translating scientific discoveries into population health impact. The authors present applications of epidemiology in TR through 4 phases designated T1-T4, illustrated by examples from human genomics. In T1, epidemiology explores the role of a basic scientific discovery (e.g., a disease risk factor or biomarker) in developing a "candidate application" for use in practice (e.g., a test used to guide interventions). In T2, epidemiology can help to evaluate the efficacy of a candidate application by using observational studies and randomized controlled trials. In T3, epidemiology can help to assess facilitators and barriers for uptake and implementation of candidate applications in practice. In T4, epidemiology can help to assess the impact of using candidate applications on population health outcomes. Epidemiology also has a leading role in knowledge synthesis, especially using quantitative methods (e.g., meta-analysis). To explore the emergence of TR in epidemiology, the authors compared articles published in selected issues of the Journal in 1999 and 2009. The proportion of articles identified as translational doubled from 16% (11/69) in 1999 to 33% (22/66) in 2009 (P = 0.02). Epidemiology is increasingly recognized as an important component of TR. By quantifying and integrating knowledge across disciplines, epidemiology provides crucial methods and tools for TR.

Author-supplied keywords

  • epidemiology
  • genomics
  • medicine
  • public health
  • translational research

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