THAT children have families, and that the health of children—the obvious concern of pediatricians—depends, in part, upon the universal social institution of the family, needs no defense. Indeed, the skeptic asks, "What is there new about the family that helps me give better care to children?" The purpose of this symposium was not so much to describe what was new but as Dr. Kempe, Chairman of the meeting pointed out, to indicate some of the opportunities in practice to make new observations of health and illness in family groups—observations that can only be made in this natural setting. Its purpose was also to illustrate that epidemiology as a method of study can be applied not only to infectious diseases, but to genetic, environmental, emotional, nutritional, allergic, and neoplastic diseases and that the the family is a natural epidemiologic unit for such studies.
Dr. Kempe defined epidemiology as a way of solving problems. Its tools are similar to those of the good reporter who seeks answers to what, when, where, who, how, and eventually why. One of the classic examples of epidemiologic work in practice is that of Pickles, a general practitioner in Britain who demonstrated by careful record-keeping that the incubation periods of herpes zoster and infectious hepatitis were very precise rather than the broad time range that had been previously stated. This was determined because the exact dates of contact were known in his family practice in contrast to retrospective studies in hospitals. The hope was that from this symposium some questions might be posed that could be studied in similar fashion in pediatric practice.
- Copyright © 1965 by the American Academy of Pediatrics