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Morbidity rates refer to the number of people within a certain unit of the general population who have a certain disease or condition. The unit of population is generally 100,000, although this may vary depending on location and the condition in question. Morbidity rates are used to help determine the overall prevalence of a specific illness, as well as where the most instances of the condition occur when compared to the population as a whole.
Researchers use morbidity rates as general statistical data in determining how common a particular condition is, as well as in determining which members of the population are more likely to become afflicted. For example, some illnesses are gender- or race-specific. Scientists can determine these things by looking at morbidity rates among men and women of the population to find out who has been affected. This data can be used to provide better care for patients, as well as to develop preventative tactics to help healthy citizens avoid any risks associated with contracting the condition.
When it has been noted where within a certain population an illness has taken the biggest toll, efforts can be made in that area to provide specialized treatment for those who have been affected. For instance, if a particular area has an unusually high number of patients suffering from a particular type of cancer, clinics and treatment centers can be built with the facilities necessary to handle the patient load. Research may also be done to discover why a particular area is more prone to housing cancer victims than others.
Education is another area in which morbidity rates come in handy. For example, it has been noted that minority groups or people living in urban areas are more likely to develop human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) than those living in suburban or rural areas. Special efforts can be made as a result of these studies, to educate people in these categories about HIV prevention and treatment in order to avoid a large outbreak of cases.
In order to receive accurate data when determining morbidity rates, researchers may take polls from the general population or keep track of patients who have been diagnosed with certain illnesses in area hospitals or clinics. Morbidity rates for many conditions are not always accurate because there are generally thousands of undiagnosed cases of any particular disease at any given time. This may be as a result of lack of education about symptoms or because lower income families cannot afford to seek a medical diagnosis or proper treatment.