To the Editor:
There must be something wrong when a professor of epidemiology includes the following statement in the concluding remarks of a commentary he has written: “Whether observational epidemiology has, on balance, contributed more to the good of public health than not is an open question.”1 This is a false statement and actually dangerous for public health. There is no question that the health of the population in this world is far better because of observational epidemiology and the resulting public health action. The public health impact is clearly huge if one considers just a few of the risk factors that have been identified by epidemiologic studies, such as the hazards associated with exposure to mainstream and second-hand smoke, air pollution, viral infections (HIV, HPV, and other), asbestos, ionizing radiation, alcohol and substance abuse, as well as the benefits associated with physical exercise and reduced cholesterol and the influence of obesity and socioeconomic factors. We really do not believe it is necessary to even defend this position. Bracken should have supported his statement by something better than a news article2 that is a standard for superficial and biased criticisms toward epidemiology. Epidemiologists who believe our work has not given much to society are unlikely to provide us with a good diagnosis of the problems, or a prescription for how epidemiologic research should be improved.
Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology
Hospital del Mar Research Institute (IMIM)
CIBER Epidemiologia y Salud Pública
National School of Public Health
Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
School of Public Health
University of Illinois at Chicago
1.Bracken M. Preregistration of epidemiology protocols: a commentary in support. Epidemiology.
2.Taubes G. Epidemiology faces its limits. Science.