Glossary

Page updated on April 2nd, 2009

A glossary shows the most common terms as well as technical and methodological expressions. Besides the definitions, there are possible  synonyms and suggested bibliographical references which might be useful as  well as interesting websites.

Best practices / Benchmarking (pdf)

Terminology Synonym term Definition/Description References (*)
Adjustment   Summarizing procedures for statistical measures in which the effects of differences in composition of populations being compared have been minimized by statistical methods. John M. Last. A Dictionary of Epidemiology. Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press: Oxford 2001. E
Benchmark   Points of reference or a standard against which measurements can be compared. In the context of indicators and public health, a benchmark is an accurate data point, which is used as a reference for future comparisons (similar to a baseline). Sometimes it also refers to as “best practices” in a particular field. Tyler Norris, et al. The Community Indicators Handbook: Measuring Progress toward Healthy and Sustainable Communities. San Francisco: Redefining Progress, 1997. PH
Case-control Studies    The observational epidemiologic study of persons with the disease (or other outcome variable) of interest and a suitable control (comparison, reference) group of persons without the disease. (…)  John M. Last. A Dictionary of Epidemiology. Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press: Oxford 2001 E
Cohort Studies    A cohort study is based on a sample of individuals who are followed to determine disease events over a defined follow-up period. Disease rates can be calculated from such a study as well as relative risks associated with measured exposures and other covariates. If the cohort identification precedes the follow-up period, the study is prospective; otherwise, the cohort study is retrospective. Encyclopedia of Biostatistics Copyright ©2007 by John Wiley & Sons St
  The analytic method of epidemiologic study in which subsets of a defined population can be identified who are, have been, or in the future may be exposed or not exposed, or exposed in different degrees, to a factor or factors hypothesized to influence the probability of occurrence of a given disease or other outcome. John M. Last. A Dictionary of Epidemiology. Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press: Oxford 2001 E
Confounding  Confounder Confounding factor Confounding variable   A situation in which a measure of the effect of an exposure on risk is distorted because of the association of exposure with other factor(s) that influence the outcome under study.  John M. Last. A Dictionary of Epidemiology. Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press: Oxford 2001 
Effect modifier   A factor that modifies the effect of the exposure on the outcome of interest. In case of a dichotomous effect modifier, the relationship between the exposure and the outcome will be different in the absence, or presence, of this factor. Rothman KJ, Greenland, eds. Modern epidemiology. Philadelphia: Lippincott-Raven 2nd ed., 1998 E
  A factor that modifies the effect of a putative causal factor under study. John M. Last. A Dictionary of Epidemiology. Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press: Oxford 2001 E
Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM)   Integration of best research evidence (clinically relevant research, often from the basic sciences of medicine, but especially from patient-centered clinical research into the accuracy and precision of diagnostic tests, the power of prognostic markers, and the efficacy and safety of therapeutic, rehabilitative, and preventive regimens) with clinical expertise and patient values. Sackett D.L., Straus S.E., Richardson W.S., Rosenberg W., Haynes R.B. Evidence-based Medicine. How to practice and teach EBM. Churchill Livingstone 2nd edition, 2000 E
Evidence-Based Practice   The concept of best practice rests on a continuum of scientific rigor. The quality of best practice can fluctuate based on the evidence used to support and form guidelines, protocols, and pathways. In application, best practice includes rigorous scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of specific clinical interventions for explicit patients, groups, or populations; implementation monitoring to assure accurate application and outcome measurement to validate effectiveness. When benchmarking for best practice, first ask, "...what is the source of the evidence, where does it ride on the opinion vs. evidence continuum?" ACE (Academic Center for Evidence-Based Practice) E
Indicator Indicator variable In statistics, a variable taking only one of two possible values, one (usually 1) indicating the presence of a condition, and the other (usually zero) indicating absence of the condition. Used mainly in Regression Analysis. John M. Last. A Dictionary of Epidemiology. Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press: Oxford 2001 St
  Indicators are a measure that can be used to help describe a situation that exists and to measure changes or trends over a period of time. Most health indicators are quantitative in nature but some are more qualitative. Vaughan, J.P., Morrow, R.H. Manual of Epidemiology for District Health Management, WHO 1989 PH
Observational Studies   A clinical or an epidemiologic study that does not involve any intervention, experimental or otherwise. Such a study may be one in which nature is allowed to take its course, with changes in one characteristic being studied in relation to changes in other characteristics. John M. Last. A Dictionary of Epidemiology. Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press: Oxford 2001 E
Outcome Research   Research on outcomes of interventions. John M. Last. A Dictionary of Epidemiology. Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press: Oxford 2001 E
Quantitative analysis of Health interventions Decision analysis in health or Cost-effectiveness analysis or cost-effective health care Decision analysis is used for aiding in the choice of two or more clinical options for the management of a given condition. Cost-effectiveness analysis compares costs of an intervention in units of health change or some proxy process indicator and is a technique for selecting among competing wants wherever resources are limited. AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality)
Focus on Cost-Effectiveness Analysis at AHRQ
PH
Randomized Controlled Trial   A clinical or an epidemiologic experiment in which subjects in a population are randomly allocated into groups, usually called study and control groups, to receive or not to receive an experimental preventive or therapeutic procedure, maneuver, or intervention. John M. Last. A Dictionary of Epidemiology. Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press: Oxford 2001 E
Register Registry In epidemiology the term register is applied to the file of data concerning all cases of a particular disease or other health-relevant condition in a defined population such that the cases can be related to a population base.
The register is the actual document, and the registry is the system of ongoing registration.
John M. Last. A Dictionary of Epidemiology. Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press: Oxford 2001 E
Risk Factor   A factor whose presence is associated with an increase in the probability of developing a disease is called a risk factor for that disease. It is a generic term widely used in epidemiology that can stand for genetic traits, sociodemographic characteristics as well as occupational, environmental, or any other types of exposures. This definition implies that a risk factor for a given disease must be present before disease occurrence. An association between a risk factor and a disease can be quantified by various measures such as the relative risk, hazard ratio, odds ratio, or risk difference. Encyclopedia of Biostatistics Copyright ©2007 by John Wiley & Sons St
  An aspect of personal behaviour or life-style, an environmental exposure, or an inborn or inherited characteristic, that, on the basis of epidemiologic evidence, is known to be associated with health-related condition(s) considered important to prevent. John M. Last. A Dictionary of Epidemiology. Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press: Oxford 2001 E
Survey   An investigation in which information is systematically collected but in which the experimental method is not used. John M. Last. A Dictionary of Epidemiology. Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press: Oxford 2001 E
Survival Analysis   Survival analysis is the generic name for analysis of time-to-event data. The distinguishing feature of such data is the presence of right-censored observations. Thus, for some subjects, instead of observing the real time to the event, only a lower limit for this time, the right-censoring time, is known. This kind of incomplete data calls for special statistical techniques for the analysis. Encyclopedia of Biostatistics Copyright ©2007 by John Wiley & Sons E
  A class of statistical procedures for estimating the survival function and for making inferences about the effects on it of treatments, prognostic factors, exposures, and other covariates. John M. Last. A Dictionary of Epidemiology. Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press: Oxford 2001 E
Systematic reviews Meta-analysis or Evidence-based analysis A systematic review is an overview of primary studies that used explicit and reproducible methods. A meta-analysis is a mathematical synthesis of the results of two or more primary studies that addressed the same hypothesis in the same way. Although meta-analysis can increase the precision of a result, it is important to ensure that the methods used for the review were valid and reliable. Greenhalgh T. How to read a paper: Papers that summarise other papers (systematic reviews and meta-analyses). BMJ. 1997, Sept.13 (315), 672-675.
The Cochrane collaboration;
The Cochrane database of systematic reviews
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(*) E = Epidemiology; St = Statistics; PH = Public Health