epidemiology, field of medicine concerned with the study of epidemics, outbreaks of disease that affect large numbers of people. Epidemiologists, using sophisticated statistical analyses, field investigations, and complex laboratory techniques, investigate the cause of a disease, its distribution (geographic, ecological, and ethnic), method of spread, and measures for control and prevention. Epidemiological investigations once concentrated on such communicable diseases as tuberculosis, influenza, and cholera, but now also encompass cancer, heart disease, and other diseases affecting large numbers of people.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.