How educators are informing the next generation with GBD research and tools

Published December 5, 2016

While decision-makers, researchers, and clinicians around the globe regularly use Global Burden of Disease (GBD) estimates to inform their work and set policy, educators are also finding value in incorporating this research and IHME resources into their curricula.

For example, the global studies class at Carrboro High School, in Carrboro, North Carolina, taught by Matthew Cone, begins its coursework by reading Epic Measures: One Doctor, Seven Billion Patients. The book, which tells the story of how IHME Director Christopher Murray and a global network of colleagues worked to produce the most accurate assessments of what causes death, disease, and disability in the world’s populations, sets the stage for the class’s exploration of global health and development.

In addition, using GBD data visualizations, Cone’s students are challenged to identify two countries similar in many ways but that have startling differences in health outcomes. The students then must develop theories about why the differences may exist, and to identify potential solutions for the country that was faring poorly. Cone’s students also had a question and answer session with Dr. Murray via videoconference in 2015.

“The goal for my students is to see a perspective beyond the classroom and their immediate environment,” said Cone.

Across the country in San Diego, California, students earning a Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) degree in Health Policy and Law, a joint-degree offering from the University of California, San Diego and California Western School of Law, are challenged to learn fundamental principles and concepts of global health policy, law, and governance, in part through IHME’s research and tools.

Dr. Tim Mackey, Associate Director for the Health Policy and Law MAS program, employs IHME-coordinated research when teaching the evolution of global health financing and has designed a workshop using IHME data to characterize how global health organizations finance interventions, channel funding to them, and/or receive funding to implement them.



“IHME data is critical as it informs education, research, and the policy of global health,” said Mackey.

And in Washington state, the Population Health course in the University of Washington's Master of Public Health Community-Oriented Public Health Practice (COPHP) program presents case studies that direct students to IHME’s research.

The COPHP program is exclusively taught using problem-based learning, an approach through which students learn by finding solutions to open-ended problems. To help students in their search for solutions, the faculty of the program point students in the direction of IHME's data visualization tools to make comparisons of life expectancy and infant mortality between various nations.

Students’ first problem-based learning case introduces them to the United States’ health status relative to other countries in the same sociodemographic group, while the second case focuses specifically on comparisons between the US and Canada. Another case in the Population Health course focuses on the first 1,000 days of life, the life course perspective, and maternal health. Faculty expect students will discover and read the most recent IHME publication on maternal mortality and use its data visualization tools to explore differences between countries.

IHME guest speakers visit student seminars for both first- and second-year students in the COPHP program, which focus on Burden of Disease during the first year and infectious disease epidemiology in the second.

In the eMPH course Global Societal Determinants of Health, UW Department of Health Services faculty A. Gita Krishnaswamy  and Stephen Bezruchka have their students participate in a "web ramble," which asks students to visit various places on the web that compare health outcomes across countries. The instructors direct students to IHME's data visualization tools and the GBD study as a whole.

“At the start of the course, we ask students to tell us where they go for public health data. They often mention the CDC and WHO, but not many are familiar with IHME or GBD, so we make sure to announce that IHME is a valid and reliable source of information, and also happens to be headquartered locally,” said Ms. Krishnaswamy, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Health Services at the University of Washington School of Public Health.


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