Donna Spiegelman wins award to develop effective public health interventions
October 6, 2014 — Donna Spiegelman, professor of epidemiologic methods at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), has received a Director’s Pioneer Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). One of 10 researchers honored, Spiegelman is believed to be the first epidemiologist and biostatistician, and the first faculty member from a school of public health, to receive the award.
The five-year $500,000 prize recognizes “individual scientists of exceptional creativity, who propose pioneering, and possibly transforming, approaches to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research,” according to the NIH website. Recipients, along with other awardees in the NIH Common Fund High-Risk High-Reward program, will be honored at a symposium held December 15-17 at the NIH.
Spiegelman intends to use this opportunity to focus on the development of new methods needed to advance the field of implementation science — an area of research that seeks to establish through rigorous quantitative methods which public health interventions directed at achieving the same goal are most effective in the real world.
She will develop a software and data platform for monitoring and evaluating large-scale disease prevention projects in real time. The methods in this toolkit will be general enough to be applicable to a variety of types of interventions, such as those aimed at preventing obesity, reducing maternal mortality, and increasing the use of cleaner cooking stoves in developing countries. In addition to publishing academic papers and a book or monograph on the new methods for study design and data analysis she is developing, Spiegelman will create a short course on best practices in implementation science.
–by Amy Roeder
Read NIH release: NIH Common Fund announces 2014 High-Risk, High-Reward research awardees
Ashish Jha work highlighted at Global Health Summit
Dr. Jha, Professor of Health Policy and Management at HSPH, participated in the December 6, 2013 Global Health Summit. Professor Jha said he hopes that the U.S. will learn from other countries that have been able to provide good health outcomes in spite of limited resources. Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital in Bangalore, India, for example, is able to provide cardiac surgery with outcomes similar to those at U.S. hospitals, but at far less cost. As one of the world’s largest heart hospitals, Jha explained, Narayana is able to achieve significant economies of scale for fixed costs like lab work and pharmacy services. The hospital also shifts low-level tasks like changing dressings to family members and—instead of buying new diagnostic machines when manufacturers stop servicing them—keeps them functioning by hiring independent companies to do repairs.
“As academics, we need to study these things very carefully…to understand in far more detailed ways how people are achieving these great efficiencies, and whether they could work [in the U.S.],” Jha said.
New diabetes prevention website launched to stop growing epidemic in Asia
The Asian Diabetes Prevention Initiative, a joint effort between the Harvard School of Public Health and the National University of Singapore Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, provides science-based evidence for policy makers and public to reverse spread of type 2 diabetes in Asia
For immediate release: Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Boston, MA – The rapidly emerging diabetes epidemic in Asia has the potential to overwhelm health care systems, undermine economic growth, and inflict unprecedented levels of disability on the
world’s most populous continent. A new website—the Asian Diabetes Prevention Initiative—aims to put a stop to this deadly epidemic by offering Asian countries authoritative, science- based information to stop the spread of type 2 diabetes. The website——a joint initiative between the Department of Nutrition at HSPH and the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health (SSHSPH) at the National University of Singapore (NUS), gives the public, health professionals and public health practitioners quick and easy access to information about the causes of type 2 diabetes, its dire consequences, and what can and must be done to decrease the prevalence of this disease in Asia. “Asia has become the epicentre of the global diabetes epidemic,” says Frank Hu, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the HSPH and co-editorial director of the new website. “By providing the latest advances in research on epidemiology and state-of-the-art practices for diabetes prevention through lifestyle and environmental changes, this website will raise the public’s awareness about this ‘silent’ epidemic and spur urgent actions to address it.” Created by nutrition experts at the HSPH and the SSHSPH, including those behind the popular and authoritative websites, The Nutrition Source and The Obesity Prevention Source.
The website offers several key features:
- a thorough, awareness-raising introduction to diabetes in Asia— from which countries have the highest prevalence to why Asians are at higher risk.
- concise summaries on the causes of type 2 diabetes—giving people the information they need to monitor their risk for diabetes and maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle.
- strategies for diabetes prevention in key settings—giving families and community leaders roadmaps to help prevent diabetes in their homes and communities.
- a quick and convenient diabetes risk calculator—giving individuals a personal estimate of their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, so those who are most at risk can start changing their habits before it is too late.
Diabetes is an important health concern in Asia, especially because Asian populations are more vulnerable to developing diabetes at lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than people of European ancestry. However, much of the information on diabetes prevention on the internet focuses on Western settings, for example, foods commonly eaten in Western countries, says Dr Rob M. van Dam, Associate Professor at the SSHSPH and co-editorial director of the new website. “Our website takes into account risk profiles and dietary and lifestyle habits that are common in Asia and can thus provide more relevant information.” The large majority of cases of type 2 diabetes are preventable through changes on the individual and societal level. Scientific evidence shows that facilitating a handful of key behaviours could help prevent many cases of type 2 diabetes:
- choosing healthier foods (whole grains, fruits and vegetables, healthy protein sources);
- limiting unhealthy foods (refined grains, red and processed meats) and sugary beverages;
- using healthy oils for cooking instead of unhealthy oils and fats (palm oil, lard, butter);
- increasing physical activity; quitting smoking; and getting the right amount of sleep.
The Asian Diabetes Prevention Initiative website conveys to individuals and communities ways to make better dietary and lifestyle choices and reduce the risk of getting the disease. “We need to dispel the prevailing myth that type 2 diabetes is inevitable if it runs in the family. The scientific evidence is compelling that type 2 diabetes can be prevented. We need to get the message out loud and clear now before the diabetes storm in Asia worsens,” says Lilian Cheung, Director of Health Promotion & Communication, in the Department of Nutrition at the HSPH and co- editorial director of the new website.