Epidemiology –Topic 1 Assignment- History, Principles, and Application of Epidemiology

Epidemiology –Topic 1 Assignment- History, Principles, and Application of Epidemiology

History, Principles, and Application of Epidemiology

Assessment Description

Epidemiologists are public health professionals who collect and analyze data to address local and global health issues. Key individuals and historical events have helped shape the field of epidemiology. Research the following individuals and their roles in shaping contemporary epidemiology:

  1. John Graunt
  2. James Lind
  3. Edward Jenner
  4. Ignaz Semmelweis
  5. John Snow

Examine the history, principles, and application of epidemiology and write a 1,000-1,250 paper to explain your findings. Choose one of the individuals from your research and include the following:

  1. Define epidemiology and discuss its purpose and importance to public health.
  2. Describe the disease and the event. Using descriptive epidemiology, discuss how common the disease was at the time, who was infected, when it occurred (time of year or season), and the mode of transmission. If the individual is not associated with a specific disease, discuss a significant disease happening during that period.
  3. Explain how the individual influenced epidemiology and discuss the advanced epidemiological methods and process the individual used to describe and control disease. Discuss how the individual’s contributions helped to inform the application definition of epidemiology in public health.
  4. Identify and describe three subspecialties within epidemiology.

You are required to cite to a minimum of three sources to complete this assignment. Sources must be published within the last 5 years and appropriate for the assignment criteria and public health content.

Prepare this assignment according to the guidelines found in the APA Style Guide, located in the Student Success Center.

This assignment uses a rubric. Please review the rubric prior to beginning the assignment to become familiar with the expectations for successful completion.






History, Principles, and Application of Epidemiology

Over the years, different individuals have contributed to the advancement of the field of epidemiology. With their individual contributions, the discipline of epidemiology therefore grew and expanded to different subspecialties.  This paper reviews the contributions of Edward Jenner to the field of epidemiology.

 Epidemiology and Importance

Epidemiology is the study of the determinants and distribution of health-related events or states in specific populations and the eventual application of such studies to control health problems (Frérot et al., 2018). Epidemiology is important for public health because it provides knowledge that can be used to determine the public health challenges of a given population or community and address such challenges. Epidemiologists utilize different epidemiologic scientific approaches such as analytical, descriptive epidemiology and their experience to make an epidemiologic judgment and to adequately understand and diagnose the conditions related to the health of a community and to propose practical, appropriate, and acceptable public health interventions to mitigate, control, or prevent certain illnesses in a community (Frérot et al., 2018). Public health relies on epidemiology as the main diagnostic tool to determine communities’ health needs and come up with public health interventions to address such needs (Frérot et al., 2018).

Disease and Event

Different individuals, including Edward Jenner, played a significant role in shaping modern-day epidemiology. Edward Jenner is renowned for his contribution to immunization and the eventual eradication of smallpox. Most scholars refer to Jenner’s work as the foundation of vaccines and immunization. Before the development of the smallpox vaccines and the subsequent eradication of the disease in the world, smallpox was a dangerous disease that was responsible for killing millions of people for thousands of years (Pead, 2017). Scientists estimate that smallpox originated in prehistoric time, appearing around 10,000 BC in the first agricultural settlements in north Eastern Africa. Eventually, smallpox spread to India through ancient Egyptian merchants (Liebowitz, 2017). Evidence of smallpox was found on the faces of mummies in the 18th and 20th Egyptian dynasties, which ruled between 1570 and 1085BC. Different mummified heads of Egyptian pharaohs bear evidence of smallpox disease. Other ancient cultures reported smallpox, including China in 1112 BC and ancient texts of India.  Eventually, smallpox was introduced in Europe between the 5th and 7th centuries and spread to epidemic levels in the Middle Ages (Liebowitz, 2017). Smallpox played a significant role in the development of Western civilization. Smallpox is therefore associated with the eventual decline of the Roman Empire in AD108. The eventual decline of the Roman Empire coincided with the large-scale smallpox epidemic. Smallpox has also been associated with the death of almost 7 million people in the Plague of Antonine. Eventually, due to the crusades, the Arab expansion, and the discovery of the West Indies, smallpox was spread to numerous areas across the world (Liebowitz, 2017). Smallpox was introduced to America through Portuguese and Spanish explorers. Smallpox decimated local populations, including Incas and Aztecs, and was instrumental in the fall of the empires. On the eastern coast of North America, smallpox spread after the early settlers had moved in and led to declining native populations. Smallpox devastated many areas of society in the middle Ages (Liebowitz, 2017). By the 18th century, nearly 400,000 people died every year in Europe as a result of smallpox, with nearly a third of the survivors going blind. The fatality rate of smallpox was between 20 to 60%, with most smallpox survivors bearing disfiguring scars. The case fatality for smallpox was even higher among infants, with figures of around 98% in Berlin and 80% in London during the late 1800s. Smallpox was highly contagious and spread from person to person through saliva droplets from the infected person’s breath and contact with infected persons. Smallpox has an incubation of between 7 to 17 days after a person has been exposed, with the eventual development of fever and rashes (Liebowitz, 2017).

Edward Jenner’s Contribution to Epidemiology

Edward Jenner made significant contributions to epidemiology as we know it today. Having been born in 1749, Jenner began his medical apprenticeship in 1764 and acquired a sound knowledge of the medical and surgical practice (Morabia, 2018). Eventually, Edward Jenner moved from Beckley to London upon completion of his medical apprenticeship at the age of 21. During his apprenticeship, Jenner gained an interest in the protective effects of cowpox on smallpox. Jenner had heard the dairymaids were protected from smallpox because most of them have suffered from cowpox. After hearing these tales, Jenner concluded that cowpox could be transmitted from one person to another deliberately as a mechanism of protection against smallpox (Morabia, 2018). In May 1796, Edward Jenner extracted some matter from the cowpox lesions of a young dairymaid who was suffering from the condition and inoculated an eight-year-old boy. In the following days, the boy developed some discomfort fever and eventually felt cold and lost his appetite. However, after two weeks, the boy was doing much better. In July 1796, Edward Jenner inoculated the boy again with matter from a fresh smallpox lesion.  After their inoculation, the boy did not develop any symptoms of smallpox, with Edward Jenner concluding that the inoculation against smallpox using cowpox was complete (Morabia, 2018). Eventually, Edward Jenner presented the hypothesis that infection with cowpox was effective in protecting individuals against subsequent infection with smallpox (Pead, 2017). Jenner also presented observations he had collected by testing his hypothesis on several participants. Due to Edward Jenner’s effort, the use of vaccinations slowly picked up in England by 1800 and spread to several European countries (Pead, 2017).

Edward Jenner had a significant impact on epidemiology and introduced vaccinations, one of the primary prevention methods adopted in epidemiology (Morabia, 2018).  Many diseases that initially ravaged populations across the world, including polio, measles, smallpox, and others, have been effectively controlled through vaccination. Through Edward Jenner’s work on vaccinations, any efforts related to epidemiology are therefore important because scientists can develop vaccines to help deal with various conditions they find to be affecting populations during epidemiologic studies.

Subspecialties within Epidemiology

Over time the field of epidemiology has grown to include different subspecialties such as pharmacoepidemiology, neuroepidemiology, and social epidemiology (Lau et al., 2020). Pharmacoepidemiology is the study of the effects and utilization of drugs in large populations. Pharmacoepidemiology provides data related to the probability of the beneficial effects of a given drug in a population and the probable adverse effects (Lau et al., 2020). On the other hand, neuroepidemiology involves the study of various neurological diseases, their determinants, frequency, and distribution across human populations. Finally, social epidemiology focuses on the significant effects of socio-cultural factors on the state of health of given communities and populations (Lau et al., 2020).


In summary, Edward Jenner made significant contributions to the field of epidemiology by pioneering inoculation. Through the widespread use of vaccines across the world, public health practitioners have therefore been able to effectively control and even get rid of epidemics that were significant devastating populations in the past, such as measles, smallpox, and polio, among others.



Frérot, M., Lefebvre, A., Aho, S., Callier, P., Astruc, K., & Aho Glélé, L. S. (2018). What is epidemiology? Changing definitions of epidemiology 1978–2017. PLOS ONE, 13(12), e0208442. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0208442

Lau, B., Duggal, P., Ehrhardt, S., Armenian, H., Branas, C. C., Colditz, G. A., Fox, M. P., Hawes, S. E., He, J., Hofman, A., Keyes, K., Ko, A. I., Lash, T. L., Levy, D., Lu, M., Morabia, A., Ness, R., Nieto, F. J., Schisterman, E. F., . . . Celentano, D. D. (2020). Perspectives on the Future of Epidemiology: A Framework for Training. American Journal of Epidemiology, 189(7), 634–639. https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwaa013

Liebowitz, D. (2017). Smallpox vaccination: an early start of modern medicine in America. Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives, 7(1), 61–63. https://doi.org/10.1080/20009666.2016.1273611

Morabia, A. (2018). Edward Jenner’s 1798 report of challenge experiments demonstrating the protective effects of cowpox against smallpox. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 111(7), 255–257. https://doi.org/10.1177/0141076818783658

Pead, P. J. (2017). Vaccination’s Forgotten Origins. Pediatrics, 139(4), e20162833. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-2833