The epidemiologists assist the health unit in its mission to promote and protect health and prevent disease and injury by searching for the causes of health and disease. Knowing why and how often diseases occur in different groups of people is a key to preventing illness and early deaths. Collecting the health data, analyzing and interpreting it so that disease and early deaths can be prevented is the role of the epidemiologists.
The epidemiologists access and maintain health data from a variety of federal, provincial and local sources including census data, national and provincial surveys related to health attitudes and behaviours, hospitalization data, mortality, morbidity and birth data statistics. They analyse, interpret, summarize and share this data with health unit staff and community partners in order to support and enhance program planning. They also work with staff to establish standards for data collection, analysis and interpretation. The Health Status Report, produced by the epidemiologists to help identify the major health issues affecting residents is an example of how data can be packaged to provide a snap shot of the community's health.
Where health data does not exist, the epidemiologists explore avenues to fill those gaps. The Rapid Risk Factor Surveillance System (RRFSS) is a project currently underway to help the health unit understand the health attitudes and behaviours of people living in Simcoe and Muskoka. RRFSS is a telephone survey of 100 people each month for 12 months that asks adults questions about smoking status, drinking and driving, women's health issues (pap tests and mammograms), seat belt use, child car seat safety and the use of bike helmets.
The epidemiologists have a master's degree in health science with a specialization in epidemiology and experience in the field of public health.