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Measures of Frequency and Summary

Improving health for individuals and populations requires an understanding of patterns of disease occurrence. This is in large part a matter of counting—researchers count the number of times a disease occurs, how many deaths occur, and so on. Although simple at first glance, a proper understanding of the terminology and attention to potential errors in this work are important if the numbers are to accurately reflect the underlying truth. This entry describes the essentials of measuring the incidence and prevalence of disease.

Two key concepts form the foundation for this material: disease risk and disease burden. Risk is the probability of developing the disease of interest and can be assessed with measures of incidence. When measuring incidence, researchers are assessing frequency, meaning they are counting ...

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