What is Health Research?

Key message:



Health science or medical science deals with the maintenance of health. Health is the state of a living organism when it functions and feels normal or better than normal. Health research is the search for new reproducible and useful knowledge on how to maintain health. (Read on Learn-Study-Work: What is Science? What is Research? and What is Health?)


Health scientists read many scientific articles about studies that have been carried out and conduct studies themselves. Therefore, they need to know how a scientific study has to be done. This requires that they understand how health research is classified.


How to classify Health Research?

"In principle, medical research is classified into primary and secondary research. While secondary research summarizes available studies in the form of reviews and meta-analyses, the actual studies are performed in primary research. Three main areas are distinguished: basic medical research, clinical research, and epidemiological research. In individual cases, it may be difficult to classify individual studies to one of these three main categories or to the subcategories. ... In the interests of clarity, we have excluded clinical epidemiology — a subject which borders on both clinical and epidemiological research ..." (www.aerzteblatt.de/pdf.asp?id=64227, 01.08.19, page 262)

What is Health Research / Medical Research? - www.learn-study-work.org

What is Basic Medical Research?

"Basic research is experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundations of phenomena and observable facts, without any particular application or use in view." (www.nsf.gov/statistics/randdef/rd-definitions.pdf, 19.06.20, page 3)


Theoretical Basic Medical Research is:

"... the development and improvement of analytical procedures—such as analytical
determination of enzymes, markers or genes—, imaging procedures—such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging—, and gene sequencing—such as the link between eye color and specific gene sequences. The development of biometric procedures—such as statistical test procedures, modeling and statistical evaluation strategies—also belongs here." (www.aerzteblatt.de/pdf.asp?id=64227, 01.08.19, page 263)


Experimental Basic Medical Research is when:

"Scientists conduct laboratory experiments with the building blocks of disease to try to understand how a disease works. They study cells, proteins and DNA from humans and animals, or disease-causing agents such as chemicals, bacteria and viruses. Scientists also study and develop new drugs and treatments in the laboratory. ..."  (www.cancer.org.au/content/about_cancer/ebooks/Understanding_clinical_trials_and_research_booklet_July_2018.pdf, 01.08.19)


What is Clinical Research?

Clinical Research (Patient Research) is:

Research conducted on people to better understand, diagnose, prevent and treat diseases. It is usually carried out in a clinical setting such as a hospital or outpatient clinic ..." (www.cancer.org.au/content/about_cancer/ebooks/Understanding_clinical_trials_and_research_booklet_July_2018.pdf, 01.08.19)


What is Epidemiology?

Epidemiology (Population Research) is:

"The study of how and why diseases occur in groups of people (populations). Scientists working in this field are called epidemiologists. They look for patterns and trends in illness to work out why certain diseases, such as cancer, occur in some people but not in others." (www.cancer.org.au/content/about_cancer/ebooks/Understanding_clinical_trials_and_research_booklet_July_2018.pdf, 01.08.19)


What is the difference between Clinical Research and Epidemiology?

"... the clinician’s “patient” is the individual; the epidemiologist’s “patient” is the community. ... while the clinician usually focuses on treating and caring for the individual, the epidemiologist focuses on identifying the exposure or source that caused the illness; the number of other persons who may have been similarly exposed; the potential for further spread in the community; and interventions to prevent additional cases or recurrences. ...

To make the proper diagnosis and prescribe appropriate treatment for a patient, the clinician combines medical (scientific) knowledge with experience, clinical judgment, and understanding of the patient. Similarly, the epidemiologist uses the scientific methods of descriptive and analytic epidemiology as well as experience, epidemiologic judgment, and understanding of local conditions in “diagnosing” the health of a community and proposing appropriate, practical, and acceptable public health interventions to control and prevent disease in the community." (www.cdc.gov/csels/dsepd/ss1978/lesson1/section1.html, 25.05.20, see under "Specified populations")