Epidemiology can be defined as the study of how often diseases occur in different groups of people and the factors that may influence patterns of disease distribution in the community. By understanding the prevalence and risk factors for a particular disease, its burden can be quantified, and targets for treatment and prevention can be identified. Epidemiology is therefore a cornerstone of public health and provides valuable information for shaping health policy.
Although it has long been recognised that foot problems are highly prevalent, disabling and costly, foot problems have historically been ignored in population-based epidemiology studies. This lack of epidemiological data has prevented the podiatry profession from being able to demonstrate its value in relation to public health and has made it difficult for researchers to attract research funding. Fortunately, this has changed in recent years, with the initiation of several well-designed population-based studies incorporating detailed information on foot problems.
This presentation will provide an overview of five population-based studies that the presenter has had the privilege of being involved in over the past decade: (i) the North West Adelaide Health Study, (ii) the Australian Longitudinal Study of Women’s Health, (iii) the Geelong Osteoporosis Study, (iv) the Tasmanian Older Adult Cohort Study and (v) the Clinical Assessment Study of the Foot. Strengths and limitations of each of these studies will be discussed, along with a summary of their key findings. Finally, the presentation will discuss the recent establishment of a foot and ankle consortium to enhance research capacity and facilitate international collaboration using these resources.