It has been said that epidemiology is "information for action". It is the fundamental science of public health, where practitioners count people or events, determine rates of disease, and compare rates in order to identify causes or risk factors that can be controlled or eliminated through public health action.
The regional epidemiologist program began in mid-1996 with regional epidemiologists employed in three public health districts across the state. Each region of the state now has a regional epidemiologist who acts as the liaison between the local health department and the Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology in the WV Bureau for Public Health. They are the field epidemiologists, the "boots on the ground" regionally for the state health department with discovery of disease cases and investigation of those cases, and serve as a valuable consultant for local health departments.
Kimberly Kline is the regional epidemiologist for Public Health District IX, which includes Jefferson, Berkeley, Morgan, Mineral, Hampshire, Hardy, Grant, Pendleton, and Pocahontas counties. Her office is located in the Pendleton County Health Department in Franklin.
Regional epidemiologists are concerned with assisting local health departments in determining if a disease report constitutes a case and how to conduct the follow-up investigation of the case. The primary purposes for these investigations are to try to determine the source of disease and to establish measures to stop the spread of disease as soon as possible.
Disease case reports are sent to the Bureau for Public Health, which, in turn, sends data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track the occurrence of the various reportable diseases across the country.
Regional epidemiologists monitor case reports from the counties within their regions to determine if a potential outbreak situation may be occurring. This data can also be used to assess the status of health in a particular population, to plan and conduct research, to evaluate interventions, programs, and outcomes, and to define strategies and specific priorities. The regional epidemiologist is also concerned with educating the public about control measures that can be taken to prevent communicable diseases.
Within their respective regions, the regional epidemiologists also provide technical assistance to the local health departments in meeting the standards set forth in the regional all-hazards plan. They also provide training on communicable disease issues and rules for newly-employed public health personnel, and assist the state health department with updating or developing disease reporting protocols.