Cadernos de Saúde Pública
On-line version ISSN 1678-4464
AYRES, José Ricardo de Carvalho Mesquita. The historical and epistemological development of epidemiology and the concept of risk. Cad. Saúde Pública [online]. 2011, vol.27, n.7, pp. 1301-1311. ISSN 1678-4464. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0102-311X2011000700006.
Statistical reasoning in health practice was disseminated by epidemiology and is widely used in various health fields. This paper revisits the historical development of epidemiology and the concept of risk, responsible for the use of statistical chance as part of causal thinking in health sciences. The study covered the period from 1872 to 1965, and the documental base consisted of scientific articles related to the development of epidemiology as a field, particularly in the American Journal of Hygiene, as well as scientific books. Three phases were identified in the development of epidemiology: constitution, exposure, and risk. The article proceeds to discuss epistemological and social and health aspects required for the historical understanding of each phase. It concludes by stressing the relevance of critical reflection on epidemiological science and its relationship to health practice, especially in public health, in order to optimize its current use and foster its on-going creative reconstruction.
Keywords : Risk; Epistemology; Social Medicine.