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Cause and Effect in Epidemiology

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Date Developed: Unknown. Source: Northwest Center for Public Health Practice. Presenter(s): Victoria Holt, RN, MPH, PhD. Type: Interactive Learning Tool. Level: Introductory. Length: 45 minutes.


In this module, Dr. Victoria Holt discusses how to determine the cause of a disease or the positive effect of a health activity. She explains how inferring causality is a step-by-step process that requires a variety of information.

Dr. Holt then presents seven guidelines to use in determining whether a specific agent or activity causes a health outcome and illustrates each guideline with a public health example.

Learning Objectives

• Describe and distinguish between association and causality in epidemiology.

• List and describe features of associations that support inferences of causality.

• List the principal concerns in inferring causality.

Special Instructions

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This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number UE8MC25742; MCH Navigator for $225,000/year. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.