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The Road to a Resource for Applied Chronic Disease Epidemiologists

Posted By Annie Tran, Friday, June 26, 2015
Updated: Friday, June 26, 2015
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In June 2015, CSTE released a new resource to help orient chronic disease epidemiologists them to the changing demands of state public health.As was found in the Chronic Disease module of the 2013 Epidemiology Capacity Assessment (ECA), only 16 percent of chronic disease epidemiologists (CDEs) at state health departments had “some epidemiology coursework.” This number is a decrease from the 2009 ECA showing only 25 percent of practicing CDEs had previous epidemiology coursework. 2009 data also show nearly half of state health departments have substantial capacity 1 . With only a small fraction of existing CDEs trained in epidemiology and most health departments lacking chronic disease capacity, CSTE saw the need for additional training and resources to support chronic disease epidemiologists in state health departments.

In 2012, Dr. Sara Huston, then chair of the Chronic Disease/Maternal and Child Health/Oral Health Steering Committee, convened a group of impassioned CDEs to discuss the idea of a resource to guide CDEs through the first days of leading a CD program. This idea evolved over months of dialog, and what began as a collection of ti ps, tools, and leading practices became a more comprehensive manual to orient leading CDEs at state and local health departments, based loosely on the State Epidemiologist Orientation Manual. At the helm of this project was Dr. Renee Calanan, Chronic Disease Epidemiology Capacity Subcommittee chair and current chair of the Chronic Disease/Maternal and Child Health/Oral Health Steering Committee.

Under her direction, a small but dedicated workgroup drafted nine chapters (and several appendices) to form the Chronic Disease Epidemiologist Orientation Manual: A Resource for Applied Epidemiologist. This labor of love was published in June 2015 and contains chapters on understanding the role of a lead CDE, technical challenges faced by CDEs (data governance, data sources and indicators, data interpretation and dissemination, etc.), and organizational challenges that affect CDEs (integration, collaboration, system dynamics). In writing this manual, the authors intend for it to be a quick-start menu of resources for lead chronic disease epidemiologists working in state, territorial, tribal, or local health departments. It is not meant to be a comprehensive epidemiology manual.

We hope that this manual will encourage discussion and collaboration to address challenges and spur innovation in the delivery of data-driven chronic disease epidemiology services throughout the United States. As chronic disease becomes more prevalent, CDEs know all too well that the demands of being a lead CDE can be huge, but so can the reward. And this manual can help you get that.

Annie Tran, MPH is a former senior research analyst for CSTE. For more information on the Chronic Disease Epidemiology Capacity Subcommittee, please visit the CSTE Chronic Disease/Maternal and Child Health/Oral Health Steering Committee webpage. If you have questions or comments, please contact Nidal Kram, CSTE’s staff lead on chronic disease work.
1Substantial capacity defined as less than 50% capacity to execute epidemiologic functions. A self-assessed measure.

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