Med school forms world's first Health Metrics Sciences department

Aim is to measure and understand elements that affect human health, incorporating perspectives of epidemiology, demography, statistics, and other disciplines. 

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The University of Washington School of Medicine, part of UW Medicine, will establish the world’s first academic department devoted to the science of health metrics. The new Department of Health Metrics Sciences will have a focused interest in using high-quality information to measure population health, its determinants, and the performance of health systems. The department will be launched on July 1, 2018. 

Approved by the University of Washington Board of Regents at its March 8 meeting, the department will take an interdisciplinary approach to measuring and understanding the elements that affect health here in the United States and worldwide. Epidemiology, demography, statistics, computer science, and economics are examples of the disciplines that will be key contributors to the department’s work.

The department is expected to develop broad collaborations across the School of Medicine, School of Public Health, other health sciences schools and related disciplines based in other schools and colleges.

“This decision by the regents affirms the university’s history of recognizing the impact of multidisciplinary research and education,” said Dr. Paul G. Ramsey, CEO of UW Medicine and dean of the UW School of Medicine. “Measuring the health of populations is at the core of UW Medicine’s mission to improve the health of the public. Any successful health system has and will continue to depend on improved health metrics available to practitioners, educators, and researchers.”

“This is a groundbreaking development in health metrics,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, professor of global health. “It represents international recognition of the science of health data as an academic discipline and will create new opportunities for research to improve health systems, to enhance people’s lives throughout the world.”

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), which has been administratively based in UW Medicine since 2007 when a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant helped establish the institute, will work closely with the new Department of Health Metrics Sciences and have faculty based in it.  In 2017, the Gates Foundation gave an additional $279 million to continue the work of IHME over the next decade. IHME is best-known for being the coordinating center of the Global Burden of Disease study,  which provides a comprehensive picture of what disables and kills people across countries, time, age, and sex.  The study helps to quantify health loss from hundreds of diseases, injuries, and risk factors so that health systems can be improved and disparities can be eliminated.

The new department will also support the University’s Population Health Initiative, announced in 2016 by President Ana Mari Cauce. The initiative is defined by three major pillars — human health, environmental resilience and social and economic equity — on the local, national and global levels.

“The Department of Health Metrics Sciences will advance the Population Health Initiative by enhancing collaboration with multiple departments within the UW, as well as other universities globally, along with local and national governments and international organizations,” said Ali Mokdad, co-chair of the initiative. “The School of Medicine is the ideal place from which to conduct this work.”

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