What attracted you to the health metrics field?
Dating back to my high school days, my initial interest in human health arose from examining how environmental and behavioral factors, such as diet or income level, influenced one’s health in a myriad of ways. I remember reading research articles citing how households with high food insecurity are at greater risk for many diseases, particularly infectious diseases. While reading, though, I noticed that many researchers struggle to adequately measure such a fluid and amorphous issue as food insecurity. Some methods included gathering height and weight measurements while others involved administering subjective household questionnaires on food insecurity, just to name a few. This lack of consistency and reliable measurement methods made me realize the need for consistent metrics and methods to obtain these metrics in not just research on food insecurity, but all related research in global health. In order to improve overall health, it is necessary to understand and quantify the many things that cause illness. Once I happened upon IHME’s vision and mission statement, I was elated to see a research institute doing just that: producing standardized health metrics that can be used to reduce disease burden worldwide.
What work are you doing at IHME?
Very much in line with my initial interests in the global health field, I work on the risk factors team for the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project. The purpose of the risk factors work is to identify and measure all possible factors that reduce health around the world. To accomplish this lofty vision, we compile data on behavioral, environmental, and metabolic risks in an effort to quantify the effect each of these risks has on population-level health. The specific risk factors that I work on are unsafe water, sanitation, and hand-washing practices. My work includes extracting and preparing data, generally from large-scale surveys, on these three risk factors to run models that produce health risk estimate for each individual risk factor. Consistent with the structure of the rest of the GBD project, these estimates are produced at the country level and can be specified by age group or sex.
How do you think your experience at IHME will contribute to your future work?
I arrived at IHME acknowledging the hefty degree of uncertainty in my future and with the intention to dive head first into this fellowship for the next two to three years and see where I resurface. I suspect that I will want to build upon the research skills and connections gained over the next few years to pursue a career focused on improving health by reducing risk factors. That could include becoming a full-time researcher and continuing to work closely with large datasets on the international level or traveling abroad and participating first-hand in primary data collection. Whatever field and career I decide on, I’m confident that the experience and skills gained at IHME will have thoroughly prepared me to take on the challenge.
GBD 2015 Risk Factors Collaborators. Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 79 behavioral, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks, 1990–2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. The Lancet. 2016 Oct 7; 388:1659–1724.
GBD 2015 DALYs and HALE Collaborators. Global, regional, and national disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) for 315 diseases and injuries and healthy life expectancy (HALE), 1990–2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. The Lancet. 2016 Oct 7; 388:1603–1658.
GBD 2015 Mortality and Causes of Death Collaborators. Global, regional, and national life expectancy, all-cause mortality, and cause-specific mortality for 249 causes of death, 1980–2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. The Lancet. 2016 Oct 7; 388:1459–1544.
GBD 2015 Disease and Injury Incidence and Prevalence Collaborators. Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 310 diseases and injuries, 1990–2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. The Lancet. 2016 Oct 7; 388:1545–1602.
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*Authors listed alphabetically