Rave blog Post

The Role of a Public Health Epidemiologist

During any infectious outbreak, populations turn to public health officials to learn the best safety measures to prevent the spread. Through their education and training, public health officials are taught to work with local communities to best disseminate current information and preventative measures. When the coronavirus pandemic began, officials started to research the cause and origin of the outbreak in order to get a better understanding of what the world was dealing with. These scientists were epidemiologists.

What is Epidemiology?

Epidemiology is the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states and events in specified populations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Related Blog: How Governors are Collaborating on Reopening Economies

What does an Epidemiologist do?

An epidemiologist is responsible for investigating patterns and causes of disease and injury in humans. While they are often associated with infectious diseases, epidemiologists do more than just look at infectious diseases. Their skills of data collection and analysis can be used for almost any public health event, including research into natural disasters, injuries, terrorism and more.   

Epidemiologists typically work in applied public health or in research, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Applied epidemiologists work for state and local governments, addressing public health problems directly. They often are involved with education outreach and survey efforts in communities. Research epidemiologists typically work for universities or with federal agencies, such as the CDC or the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Related Blog: Why Everyone Should Read Our Crisis Communications Guide for  Public Health Authorities

The CDC has an Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) that serves on the front lines of public health. When disease outbreaks or other public health threats emerge, EIS officers investigate, identify the cause, rapidly implement control measures, and collect evidence to recommend preventive actions, according to the CDC

EIS officers have responded to a multitude of major health threats since 1951, including:

  • Participating in the worldwide smallpox eradication campaign in the 1960s and 1970s
  • Investigating and responding to outbreaks and incidents related to Anthrax, SARS, and flu subtypes H1N1 and H5N1
  • Providing disaster relief following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Katrina, and 9/11
  • Providing on-the-ground response to Ebola and Zika virus outbreaks.

Epidemiologists often specialize in one or more public health areas. The specialities include infectious diseases, maternal and child health, mental health, public health preparedness and emergency response, and more. 

COVID-19 Epidemiology and Communication

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, epidemiologists have worked to determine key information about the disease. According to the CDC, epidemiologists identified the source of the outbreak, monitor and track the disease, study the disease, and develop guidance for actions to slow the spread of the disease and lessen its impact. 

Communication during an epidemic, especially during an outbreak, is extremely important. In today’s 24-hour news and digital media environment, people constantly receive information from many sources, ranging from print media to television to alerts and social media on mobile devices. Immediately after the news media or community learns of a public health–related outbreak investigation, they want to know what is happening and who is affected, the CDC says. 

Related Blog: How Mass Notification Helps to Identify and Communicate with Your  At-Risk Population

The CDC outlines ways to effectively communicate with a community during an epidemic, most of which focuses on resources and key information to include in any messaging. Depending on where the outbreak is located and what populations are affected, state and local communications teams might tailor additional resources to the investigation needs (e.g., posters for low-literacy readers or text-messaging alerts), according to the CDC

No matter the public health issue, epidemiologists are focused on helping the community and providing safety measures to keep people safe.

New call-to-action

Amelia Marceau
Amelia Marceau

Amelia is a marketing intern at Rave. She loves to write about anything safety related. When she’s away from the keyboard, you’ll either find her playing with her dog, ice skating, or competing in a triathlon. Amelia attends the University of Massachusetts Amherst, majoring in Political Science and Journalism.

Coronavirus Recovery Solutions for State & Local

Discover how you can strengthen recovery by identifying vulnerable and at-risk community members, sending out wellness checks, and more.

Get the Info Sheet 

Schedule a Free Consultation

Talk With An Expert

Discover our pre-packaged solutions or configure a package that's right for your business. Learn how you can be up and running in days, take advantage of unlimited usage, and benefit from unbeatable performance and customer satisfaction.