Why and how the qualitative method can improve critical epidemiology?

  • Emiko Yoshikawa Egry
  • Maria Marta Nolasco Chaves
  • Rosa Maria Godoy Serpa da Fonseca
  • Liliana Müller Larocca


Classically, epidemiology has used knowledge from the areas of biology, mathematics, bacteriology and the environment to indicate individual and population characteristics, as well as to identify the conditions and probabilities of illness and death. In order to overcome this hegemonic explanatory model, critical epidemiology (CE), based on the philosophical theoretical framework of historical and dialectical materialism, has broadened the understanding of the epidemiological profiles of a given population by laying down its proposal on three axes: social determination of health process, mode of social organization, and the relationship between society-nature. To refine the understanding of phenomena, CE uses sociological categories such as social class, gender, race-ethnicity and generation (Breilh, 2006; 2013). Studies that used these categories, allowed the understanding of the social determination of the epidemiological profiles and way of life of the collectives, in addition to the concrete observed or identified in the statistical data. Many of these studies have added a qualitative approach to quantitative data to improve the approximation and recognition of the magnitude and depth of the problem. Thus, epidemiological studies that seek to overcome the positivist approach of traditional epidemiology, are generally consolidated with mixed, quanti-qualitative methods. The purpose of this report is to highlight the qualitative methodology to increase the description of the epidemiological profile of the population, based on the following researches: a) a study about the contradictions between health needs of the population and epidemiological profiles described in Municipal Health Plans - MHP and Annual Management Report - AM. (Nascimento & Egry, 2017); b) study of health needs of the street population and instrumental knowledge of the professionals who worked in street clinics in Curitiba-Paraná (Kami, Larocca, Chaves, Piosiadlo & Albuquerque, 2016); c) study of epidemiological profile and way of living of young adults with HIV / AIDS in a Health Regional of Paraná, Brazil (Brandão, 2017).