The three main tasks of modern epidemiology: description, prediction and causal inference

  • Jose A. Calvache a. Editor in Chief, Colombian Journal of Anesthesiology. Bogotá, Colombia. b. Department of Anesthesiology, Universidad del Cauca. Popayán, Colombia. c. Department of Anesthesiology, Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam. Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
  • César Higgins Tejera a. Epidemiology Master’s Program, Universidad del Magdalena. Santa Marta, Colombia. b. Epidemiology Doctoral Program, University of Michigan. Michigan, United States.
Keywords: Epidemiología moderna, Descripción, Predicción, Inferencia causal


Vilaró M, Cortés J, Selva-O’Callaghan A, Urrutia A, Ribera J-M, Cardellach F, et al. Adherence to reporting guidelines increases the number of citations: the argument for including a methodologist in the editorial process and peer-review. BMC Medical Research Methodology. 2019;19:1-7. doi:

Smith R. Peer review: a flawed process at the heart of science and journals. J Royal Soc Med. 2006;99:178-82. doi:

Henderson M. Problems with peer review. BMJ. 2010;340. doi:

Calvache JA. Enhancing the value of research reports: time for complete reporting. Colombian Journal of Anesthesiology. 2019;47:209-10. doi:

Riley RD, Cole TJ, Deeks J, Kirkham JJ, Morris J, Perera R, et al. On the 12th Day of Christmas, a Statistician Sent to Me... BMJ (Clinical Research Ed). 2022;379:e072883. doi:

Hernán MA, Hsu J, Healy B. A second chance to get causal inference right: A classification of data science tasks. CHANCE. 2019;32:42-9. doi:

Lesko CR, Fox MP, Edwards JK. A framework for descriptive epidemiology. Am J Epidemiol. 2022;191:2063-70. doi:

Bocanegra Rivera JC, Gómez Buitrago LM, Sánchez Bello NF, Chaves Vega A. Adverse events in anesthesia: Analysis of claims against anesthetists affiliated to an insurance fund in Colombia. Cross-sectional study. Colombian Journal of Anesthesiology. 2023;51:e1043. doi:

González Cárdenas VH, Benítez Ávila DS, Gómez Barajas WJ, Tamayo Reina MA, Pinzón Villazón IL, Cuervo Pulgarín JL, et al. Premedication with midazolam in low-risk surgery in children does not reduce the incidence of postoperative delirium. Cohort study. Colombian Journal of Anesthesiology. 2023;51:e1055. doi:

Peña MDL, Giraldo OL, Aguirre DC, Peña AJDL, Arango JJ, Martínez R. Prognostic predictive model for PONV in cesarean delivery. Colombian Journal of Anesthesiology. 2023;51:e1077. doi:

Hemingway H, Croft P, Perel P, Hayden JA, Abrams K, Timmis A, et al. Prognosis research strategy (PROGRESS) 1: A framework for researching clinical outcomes. BMJ. 2013;346.

van der Laan MJ, Rose S. Targeted learning. Springer New York; 2011. doi:

Balzer LB, Petersen ML. Invited commentary: Machine learning in causal inference—how do i love thee? Let Me count the ways. Am J Epidemiol. 2021;190:1483-7. doi:

Casas-Arroyave FD, Fernández JM, Zuleta-Tobón JJ. Evaluation of a closed-loop intravenous total anesthesia delivery system with BIS monitoring compared to an open-loop target-controlled infusion (TCI) system: randomized controlled clinical trial. Colombian Journal of Anesthesiology. 2019;47:84-91.

Hernán MA, Robins JM. Causal inference: What if. Boca Raton: Chapman & Hall/CRC; 2020.

Vandenbroucke JP, Broadbent A, Pearce N. Causality and causal inference in epidemiology: the need for a pluralistic approach. Int J Epidemiol. 2016;45:1776-86. doi:

Hernán MA, Hernández-Díaz S, Robins JM. A structural approach to selection bias. Epidemiology. 2004;15:615-25. doi:

Morabia A. History of the modern epidemiological concept of confounding. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2011;65:297-300. doi:

Schisterman EF, Cole SR, Platt RW. Overadjustment bias and unnecessary adjustment in epidemiologic studies. Epidemiol. 2009;20:488-95. doi:

Haber NA, Wieten SE, Rohrer JM, Arah OA, Tennant PWG, Stuart EA, et al. Causal and associational language in observational health research: A systematic evaluation. Am J Epidemiol. 2022;191:2084-97. doi:

Greenland S, Pearl J, Robins JM. Causal diagrams for epidemiologic research. Epidemiology. 1999;10(1):37-48.

Lipsky AM. Causal directed acyclic graphs. JAMA. 2022;327:1083-4. doi:

Lederer DJ, Bell SC, Branson RD, Chalmers JD, Marshall R, Maslove DM, et al. Control of confounding and reporting of results in causal inference studies. Guidance for Authors from editors of respiratory, sleep, and critical care journals. Ann Am Thoracic Soc. 2019;16:22-8. doi:

Krishnamoorthy V, Wong DJN, Wilson M, Raghunathan K, Ohnuma T, McLean D, et al. Causal inference in perioperative medicine observational research: part 1, a graphical introduction. Br J Anaesth. 2020;125:393-7. doi:

Gaskell A, Sleigh J. An Introduction to causal diagrams for anesthesiology research. Anesthesiology. 2020;132:951-67. doi:

Tennant PWG, Murray EJ, Arnold KF, Berrie L, Fox MP, Gadd SC, et al. Use of directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) to identify confounders in applied health research: review and recommendations. Int J Epidemiol. 2021;50(2):620-32. doi:

Hernán MA, Robins JM. Using big data to emulate a target trial when a randomized trial is not available. Am J Epidemiol. 2016;183:758-64. doi:

Hansford HJ, Cashin AG, Jones MD, Swanson S, Islam N, Dahabreh I, et al. Development of the transparent reporting of observational studies emulating a target trial (TARGET) guideline. BMJ Open. 2023;13:e074626. doi:

Huitfeldt A. Is caviar a risk factor for being a millionaire? BMJ. 2016;355. doi:

Hernán MA. The C-Word: scientific euphemisms do not improve causal inference from observational data. Am J Public Health. 2018;108:616-9. doi:

Vickers AJ, Assel M, Dunn RL, Zabor EC, Kattan MW, van Smeden M, et al. Guidelines for reporting observational research in urology: the importance of clear reference to causality. BJU International 2023;132:4–8. doi:

How to Cite
Calvache JA, Higgins Tejera C. The three main tasks of modern epidemiology: description, prediction and causal inference. Colomb. J. Anesthesiol. [Internet]. 2023 Oct. 9 [cited 2023 Dec. 3];51(4). Available from:


Download data is not yet available.
How to Cite
Calvache JA, Higgins Tejera C. The three main tasks of modern epidemiology: description, prediction and causal inference. Colomb. J. Anesthesiol. [Internet]. 2023 Oct. 9 [cited 2023 Dec. 3];51(4). Available from:


Article metrics
Abstract views
Galley vies
PDF Views
HTML views
Other views
QR Code