Analyzing data helps prevention planners better understand the problems in their community and the factors that contribute to those problems.
After you have collected your data, you will need to interpret it. A meaningful epidemiological assessment involves analysis, comparison, synthesis, and presentation according to the following dimensions:
- Size or magnitude. How big are the underlying problems in terms of occurrence?
- Trends over time. Is the problem increasing or decreasing? Are there growing problems that need increased attention?
- Relative comparisons. How do other states, tribes, jurisdictions, or national rates compare?
- Seriousness or severity. Which consumption patterns or consequences have greater impact on individuals and society than others?
- Economic cost. What population is being impacted the most due to mortality, morbidity, health costs, and loss of productivity?
- Disparities. Does data indicate an unequal distribution of substance use problems across members of a population, by age, gender, race or ethnicity, or regions? Examining data among subgroups helps develop targeted prevention programs.
Using multiple dimensions can provide a more complete understanding of the extent and importance of substance misuse and related behavioral health problems in a particular population or setting.
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