History

The Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Population Health (BEPH) employs an interdisciplinary approach, with the goal of understanding, preserving, and improving the health of human populations and individuals through education, research, and service delivery from a population-based perspective. The core sciences of our department focus on three disciplines: biostatistics, epidemiology, and population health. Biostatistics is the development and application of statistical reasoning and methods in addressing, analyzing, and solving problems in public health; health care; and biomedical, clinical, and population-based research. Epidemiology is the study of patterns of disease and injury in human populations and the application of this study to help control health problems. Population health is defined as the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group. The field of population health includes health outcomes, patterns of health determinants, and the policies and interventions linking these.

The public health problems we are currently facing are complex, requiring a deep understanding of population dynamics, disease burden, and development policy. The discovery of solutions to these complex public health problems presents us not only with challenges but opportunities for cross-disciplinary and cross-sector collaboration that has the potential to benefit all societies. The thematic priorities for twenty-first-century population health are thus centered on two key factors: 1) the burden of disease and the application of appropriate instruments and interventions to reduce it, and 2) the degree of health inequality that exists within and between countries or societies. Improvements to health – both nationally and globally – will depend on how we address these key factors.

Our approach to resolving public health problems combines the analysis of population and health using biostatistical, epidemiologic, and demographic methods. These approaches are applied to the investigation of public health policies that affect people’s health, taking into consideration human rights, humanitarian responses, and the politics and ethics of public health and development. We are especially concerned with improving reproductive and family health outcomes, particularly among people living in developing countries. Our department also has a special interest in contending with questions of health equity and human rights, particularly about reproductive and population health issues in developing countries. 

Our faculty members generate knowledge and ideas on public health and population health issues through research and publication; strengthen public health leadership through educational programs; and enhance capacities through collaborative engagement, especially with government, national and international institutions. In their professional work, our faculty members draw on their disciplinary expertise in biostatistics, epidemiology, demography, and collaborate across other disciplines including, reproductive health, medicine, environmental health, ethics, law, political science, psychology, economics, sociology, and anthropology.

Our department’s work is grounded in the life course conceptual framework, in which we apply a demographic and health surveillance approach to understand the level, trends, and determinants of population health, including sexual and reproductive health, maternal and perinatal health, child health, adolescent health, women’s health, and adult health. Skills emphasized in departmental training include: biostatistics, epidemiology, and population sciences; program evaluation; evidence-based advocacy; and the translation of research on population health into policy and programs, especially for family planning, sexual and reproductive health issues.

The department‘s research interests are linked to activities of the Center of Reproductive Health, which are organized around three clusters: 1) population, family and reproductive health issues, including maternal and child health and women’s health, 2) epidemiology of infectious and chronic diseases, and 3) the application of bio-statistical and demographic methods in population health research. These clusters span a wide spectrum of topics, including family planning and reproductive health; women’s and children’s health; prevention and control of infectious and chronic diseases; nutritional epidemiology and practice; food security, safety, and sovereignty; humanitarian assistance and the ethics of public health; social and economic development, health policy, and demography.