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Design Concepts in Nutritional Epidemiology$
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Barrie M. Margetts and Michael Nelson

Print publication date: 1997

Print ISBN-13: 9780192627391

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780192627391.001.0001

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12. Ecological studies

12. Ecological studies

(p.341) 12. Ecological studies
Design Concepts in Nutritional Epidemiology

Janet E. Hiller

Anthony J. McMichael

Oxford University Press

Ecological studies examine characteristics of population groups rather than individuals. This chapter provides useful examples of how to develop hypotheses using ecological data (based on the collection of relevant indices of diet and health status), assess geographic differences and time trends, and understand the value of ecological studies especially in international comparisons of diet and disease. The need to collect non-nutritional population data and the limitations of the ecological approach are illustrated, including a discussion of calibration. Sampling is discussed in detail, as are the issues of time-lagging, cohort analysis, and adjusting for confounders. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the criteria for ‘proof’ in ecological studies, their limitations, and a consideration of when ecological studies are the method of choice.

Keywords:   ecological study, geographic differences, time trends, calibration, statistical techniques, time-lag, lag period, confounders, cohort, proof

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