The Department of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine is working to bridge the worlds of medicine and public health, leading research to improve the health of populations in New York City and around the globe and educating students to become leaders in healthcare delivery, health policy and public health.
Over the last hundred years, the worlds of medicine and public health have drifted apart. While medicine, in response to advances in medical research, has focused on treating individuals through the healthcare system, public health has focused on broad populations, through the creations of policies and programs. Although there have been incredible advances in both areas, rising healthcare costs, persistent health inequality, and changing insurance and payment models demand that we unite the knowledge and expertise of medicine and public health. As a department of population health at an academic medical center, we are uniquely situated to bring together the expertise of these two fields.
Because most people spend only a fraction of their time in contact with the healthcare system, efforts to improve the health of populations must focus not only on actual medical care but also on where we spend the great majority of their lives—the places we live, work, and play.
The Department of Population Health partners with front-line practices, community groups and public health institutions to conduct research aimed at solving pressing questions. Our research areas include: healthcare delivery science, medical ethics, health behavior change, comparative effectiveness research, epidemiology, biostatistics, health policy and evaluation, early childhood development, community health work and health equity, and tobacco, alcohol, and drug use and treatment.
We work across three domains in seeking to accelerate health improvements:
- The healthcare system;
- Community- and neighborhood-based partnerships;
- Innovative methods, metrics and models.
In close partnership with colleagues at NYU Langone, NYU Lutheran, Bellevue Hospital, and across the University, we work to advance measurable improvements in our healthcare system’s quality of care, patients’ health outcomes, and financial performance. The work we do includes:
- Analyzing claims data, electronic health records and other big data sources, to advance the science of delivering healthcare, including improving safety, quality, and efficiency in the hospital and in outpatient settings
- Developing ethical guidelines and recommendations to ensure that health and healthcare are distributed in a fair and equitable manner
- Developing multidisciplinary collaborations with non-medical partners, including patients, social scientists, engineers and others, to bring new perspectives to healthcare delivery redesign
Community- and neighborhood-based partnerships
Health is determined as much by our zip code as by our genetic code. Health improvement efforts must include a focus on the social factors that contribute to the growing burden of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancer and HIV/AIDS. To this end, we partner with organizations on the front lines, including medical practices, community-based organizations, the New York City and State health departments, policymakers, and foundations, to develop cross-cutting and community appropriate interventions to better serve populations. To inform more upstream approaches to improving health, our faculty study social determinants of health—the cultural, socioeconomic, neighborhood and other factors that significantly shape people’s health and well-being. We translate our findings into specific public health-oriented programs and policies, such as:
- Working with communities to reduce hospital visits and improve the health of whole neighborhoods
- Tailoring health interventions to immigrant and underrepresented minority groups to increase health equity
- Studying food environments to identify policies and programs that promote healthier eating, including analyzing the impact of laws and regulations, marketing, and food access on people’s eating choices and weight
- Working with public schools and parents to focus on the crucial years of early childhood and help launch kids on healthy trajectories for life
- Helping individuals develop workable strategies to change unhealthy behaviors, like quitting smoking and increasing physical activity
Innovative methods, metrics and models
Across all our work the Department of Population Health blends on-the-ground engagement with applied multi-disciplinary, cutting-edge research and innovative methods development. To foster a team science approach, our 70 core faculty and 200 dedicated staff are drawn from diverse disciplines, including: medicine, epidemiology, biostatistics, economics, ethics, law, education, dentistry, and clinical psychology. We use and refine a broad range of innovative methods, from multi-level modeling and comparative effectiveness research to geospatial analysis and community-based participatory research. Our partnerships are essential in cultivating community support for and feedback on a variety of different projects that harness innovative methods to improve area health. Specific examples of our work include:
- Conducting geospatial analyses to map out neighborhood health needs and assets at the neighborhood and even building-level and using that data to better understand neighborhood resources and influence policy and practice
- Using modeling, comparative effectiveness research and other approaches, to study the economics of healthcare, to discover which procedures and policies improve patient health at the least cost