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What is Biostatistics?

According to the World Health Organization, public health encompasses organized measures to prevent illness, increase health and well-being and prolong life. Subject areas within the field of public health include behavioral sciences, health administration, epidemiology and biostatistics. Although each area of public health can be studied and practiced as independent fields of study, biostatistics allows for the use of statistical analysis and quantitative reasoning to address major health issues. Additionally, biostatistics typifies health trends by investigating and interpreting individual and population health data. The knowledge and skills gained in a biostatistics course are critical components of an online Master of Public Health program, and serve as a cornerstone of public health practice.

Biostatistics is a branch of statistics that makes calculated and scientific decisions based on analyzing biomedical data. Basic concepts within biostatistics include collecting and summarizing biomedical data, and drawing conclusions or inferences from sample data to a population. Biomedical data are raw data gathered through primary data sources, or items collected during the time of a study or experiment. Biomedical data also comprises secondary data sources, or the use of primary data collected by others, including health information found in health databases, medical records and published reports. Students who complete biostatistics academic courses are able to increase their knowledge about statistical methods for collecting and analyzing data, while enhancing the skills needed to translate findings for both scientific and non-scientific target audiences.

Biostatistics in Public Health

Topics addressed within a biostatistics academic course are similar to those learned in a statistics course. Students enrolled in a biostatics course will learn how to compute descriptive statistics, identify sampling techniques for quantitative and clinical trial studies, and estimate a research sample size based on margin of error and confidence level. Students will also learn how to select appropriate statistical tests for hypothesis testing, assess the relationship between independent and dependent variables, and use data software programs to perform inferential statistical analysis. Subsequently, since biostatistics is the term used to characterize a field of public health, applications of these statistical concepts facilitate the designation of health disparities while detecting health-related data trends based on disease distribution and frequency patterns.

Biostatistics is the division of public health that ascertains health trends based on calculated and scientific measures. Focal areas of biostatistics comprise data management and analysis, disease surveillance and health informatics, and examining associations and links among health events. The ability to analyze and interpret biomedical data serves as the cornerstone for improving the health and well-being of individuals and communities.

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Sources:

Berger, V., & Matthews, J. (2006). What does biostatistics mean to us. Men's Sansa Monograph. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3190464/

Principles of Epidemiology in Public Health Practices, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/ophss/csels/dsepd/SS1978/SS1978.pdf

The Association of Schools & Public Health Programs, Study Biostatistics and Informatics. Retrieved from: http://www.aspph.org/study/biostatistics/

World Health Organization: Public Health. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/trade/glossary/story076/en/


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