Glossary of terms

 

          Here is a list of general definitions for some of the terms covered in this module, as well as additional terms that are relevant to MCH public health social work.

 

Apgar score- a score given to newborns 1 minute (handling the birthing process) and 5 minutes (adjusting to the new environment) after birth to quickly assess their health. A score between 0 and 2 is given for each of five categories, with a total score between 0 and 10. The categories are: breathing effort, heart rate, muscle tone, reflexes, and skin color. A score of 8 or above is considered normal and healthy; a score below 8 indicates that the child needs assistance (NIH).

Birth rate (crude birth rate)- the rate of childbirths per 1,000 people in a given year. The total number of births is divided by the total mid-year population (at six months), then multiplied by 1,000 to arrive at the births per 1,000 convention.

Body mass index (BMI)- a measure calculating weight and height, often used to determine childhood overweight and obesity by comparing individual scores with the distributions for each age and sex group (CDC).

Case-control study- typically examines multiple exposures in relation to a disease; subjects are defined as cases and controls, and exposure histories are compared (Aschengrau & Seage, 2007, p. 137).

In other words, study subjects are identified and enrolled as either having a disease or not. Researchers then look back into their history (usually through records or recalled from memory) to see their exposure status.

Childhood overweight and obesity- based on measurements of children across the country, charts are developed to show the distribution of weight and height (BMI) for each age and sex. A child is considered overweight if he or she has a BMI at or above the 85th percentile but below the 95th percentile. A child is considered obese if he or she has a BMI at or above the 95th percentile (CDC).

In other words a nine year old boy who weighs 70 lbs and is 4’1’’ has a BMI of 20.5, which is at the 91st percentile for his BMI-for-age. This means that he has a higher BMI than 91% of 9-year-old boys and is considered obese. (BMI calculator)

Cohort study- typically examines multiple health effects of an exposure; subjects are defined according to their exposure levels and followed for disease occurrence (Aschengrau & Seage, 2007, p. 137).

In other words, study subjects are identified and enrolled as either being exposed or not (to an agent of interest). They are then followed to determine whether they develop the associated disease.

Cross-sectional study- examines relationship between exposure and disease prevalence in a defined population at a single point in time (Aschengrau & Seage, 2007, p. 137).

In other words, researchers take a measurement of a health condition or problem at one point in time (a snapshot). There is no review of past circumstances, knowledge of whether the exposure came before the disease, or observation of change over time.

Death rate- the number of deaths divided by the total mid-year population, described as a rate per 1,000 people in a given year.

Descriptive epidemiology- seeks to summarize conditions based on person, place, and time by analyzing disease patterns. Descriptive epidemiology seeks to understand a population’s health status, make hypotheses about the causes of diseases, and inform program planning and evaluation (Aschengrau & Seage, 2007).

Disability- limits what one can do physically or mentally, or limits one’s senses; it may be more difficult to accomplish normal daily activities. Disabilities can be congenital or be the result of illness, accidents, or aging (NIH).

Ecological study- examines relationship between exposure and disease with population-level rather than individual-level data (Aschengrau & Seage, 2007, p. 137).

In other words, researchers look at aggregate data for a population (for example, a nation) to review trends and make observations for a health condition or problem on a large scale.

Epidemiology- the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events (including disease), and the application of this study to the control of diseases and other health problems (World Health Organization, 2011).

In other words, epidemiology seeks to understand how health conditions (for example, cancer or poor diet) are distributed among a population (e.g., who and how many people have the condition) and the risks or causes associated with those conditions (e.g., characteristics of people who have it compared to those who do not have it).

Experimental study- studies preventions and treatments for diseases; investigator actively manipulates which groups receive the agent under study (Aschengrau & Seage, 2007, p. 137). An example is a randomized, controlled trial.

Fertility rate- the number of children a woman would give birth to in her lifetime based on current the age-specific live birth rate (Cwikel, 2006).

In other words, the number of children a woman can expect to have over the course of her reproductive life can be generated based on the current (this year’s, for example) age-specific five-year birth rates.

Incidence proportion (cumulative incidence or risk)- the total number of new cases of a disease (or condition) divided by the total number of people at risk of developing the disease at the start of observation; must always specify the time frame (from the beginning of observation to the time to number is reported) (Cwikel, 2006).

Incidence rate- the total number of new cases of a disease (or condition) divided by person-time at risk.                                                                                                                                                                                            

Infant mortality rate- the number of deaths to children between birth and one year old divided by total live births in that year, described as deaths per 1,000 live births (Cwikel, 2006).

Life expectancy- average number of years a person is expected to live (or has left to live at a certain age). Life expectancy takes into account average years lived for those in the population.

Life span- describes the maximum number of years a member of a population has been known to live.

Maternal mortality ratio- the number of deaths to women during pregnancy or within 42 days of the termination of pregnancy, described as number of deaths per 100,000 live births.

Neonatal mortality rate- the number of deaths to children between birth and 28 days, described as deaths per 1,000 live births.

Observational study- studies causes, preventions, and treatments for diseases; investigator passively observes as nature takes its course (Aschengrau & Seage, 2007, p. 137). Cohort, cross-sectional, and case-control studies are observational studies.

Odds ratio-

Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS)- a CDC surveillance project that collects population-based data on attitudes and experiences of mothers before, during, and shortly after pregnancy, carried out at the state level (CDC). The data from PRAMS can help states improve mothers’ and infants’ health and can provide comparisons between states.

Prospective study- a study design that collects data on exposure (to either risk or protective factors) at the time of exposure and follows the impact of the exposure to these factors over time (Cwikel, 2006).

In other words, recruits subjects and continues to gather study data over time (as opposed to looking back at past events).

Public health- “the multidisciplinary field whose goal is to promote the health of the population through organized community efforts” (Aschengrau & Seage, 2007, p. 2).

Public health social work- public health social work is a contemporary, integrated, trans-disciplinary approach to preventing, addressing, and solving social health problems, drawing on both social work and public health theories, frameworks, research, and practice (Boston University School of Social Work).

Randomized controlled trial (experiment)- a study design where exposure status is randomly assigned to subjects by the researcher; the subjects are then observed to examine the relationship between the exposure and the outcome or disease (Aschengrau & Seage, 2007).

Reliability- refers to the likelihood of a study to find the same measurements or results in repeated trials.

Retrospective study- studies subjects and occurrences that have already happened (by looking back at data, records, or reports).

Sex ratio- the number of males to females in a population.

Social epidemiology- the study of the distribution and determinants of social problems and diseases. Social epidemiology uses epidemiology and social science methods to develop interventions, programs, policies, and institutions with the aim to reduce the extent, adverse impact, or incidence of a health or social problem and to promote health (Cwikel, 2006, p. 4).

Under-five mortality- the number of deaths to children from birth to five years of age, described as deaths per 1,000 live births.

Validity- the accuracy of a study’s measurement tools or results. That is, it describes how likely a statement or measurement reflects the truth.