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The Changing Face of Epidemiology: Launching a New Series

Wilcox, Allen J.

doi: 10.1097/01.ede.0000199258.95619.ff
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In this issue, we offer the first in a new series of commentaries on “The Changing Face of Epidemiology.” These commentaries are intended to throw a spotlight on topics that challenge epidemiologists across all specialties. The topics range from the practical—for example, what to do about declining participation rates—to wider questions about the impact of the genetic revolution on epidemiologic discovery and the strategies needed to understand the origins and impact of the obesity epidemic.

As a way to develop these ideas, we are organizing symposia for public discussion of the topics. Each symposium features a keynote speaker who provides an in-depth look at the question with responses by discussants with diverse perspectives. We sponsored 3 of these symposia at the 2005 joint meeting of SER and CSEB in Toronto. These sessions were heavily attended and well-received. With the benefit of feedback from the ensuing discussion, the speakers are preparing commentaries for publication in Epidemiology.

In this issue, we present the first set of these commentaries, organized by Editor Dale Sandler, on “Epidemiologic Research in the Face of a Growing Obesity Epidemic.” John Potter1 provided the keynote talk, with thoughtful discussions by Gail McKeown-Eyssen,2 Larry Kushi,3 and David Jenkins.4 The authors suggest opportunities for new epidemiologic approaches and research questions, such as, hypotheses that consider the context in which food is consumed and the conditions that restrict regular exercise. The authors call for methods that extend beyond the usual confines of risk factor epidemiology and encourage exploration of the strikingly complex web of causality in which obesity occurs.

These commentaries are not the end of the story. The responsibility of a journal is not simply to review and edit but to stimulate. With the help of talented colleagues like those represented in this issue, our hope is that the journal can extend these discussions to an even broader audience. Meanwhile, we are planning our symposium for next year's Congress of Epidemiology on “The Growth of Multicenter, Multidisciplinary, Multi-investigator Studies—How Is ‘Big’ Epidemiology Changing Epidemiology?” We look forward to the discussions.


1. Potter JD. Epidemiologic research in the face of an obesity epidemic. Epidemiology. 2006;17:124–127.
2. McKeown-Eyssen G. Methodologic issues for the study of obesity. Epidemiology. 2006;17:134–135.
3. Kushi LH. Epidemiologic research on the obesity epidemic: A socioenvironmental perspective. Epidemiology. 2006;17:131–133.
4. Jenkins DJA, Kendall CWC. The Garden of Eden—plant-based diets, the genetic drive to store fat and conserve cholesterol, and implications for epidemiology in the 21st century. Epidemiology. 2006;17:128–130.
© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.