Invited commentary: Off-roading with social epidemiology--exploration, causation, translation.

M. Maria Glymour, Theresa L. Osypuk, David H. Rehkopf

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

Population health improvements are the most relevant yardstick against which to evaluate the success of social epidemiology. In coming years, social epidemiology must increasingly emphasize research that facilitates translation into health improvements, with continued focus on macro-level social determinants of health. Given the evidence that the effects of social interventions often differ across population subgroups, systematic and transparent exploration of the heterogeneity of health determinants across populations will help inform effective interventions. This research should consider both biological and social risk factors and effect modifiers. We also recommend that social epidemiologists take advantage of recent revolutionary improvements in data availability and computing power to examine new hypotheses and expand our repertoire of study designs. Better data and computing power should facilitate underused analytic approaches, such as instrumental variables, simulation studies and models of complex systems, and sensitivity analyses of model biases. Many data-driven machine-learning approaches are also now computationally feasible and likely to improve both prediction models and causal inference in social epidemiology. Finally, we emphasize the importance of specifying exposures corresponding with realistic interventions and policy options. Effect estimates for directly modifiable, clearly defined health determinants are most relevant for building translational social epidemiology to reduce disparities and improve population health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)858-863
Number of pages6
JournalUnknown Journal
Volume178
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 15 2013

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