Public Health Studies

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Why It Matters  |  What We Are Doing Who Is Involved



Why It Matters

Getting experimental new therapies to market can often mean the difference between life and death.  People across the world who are suffering from diseases and chronic conditions are often waiting in hope that a new therapy or prevention will improve their lives. We need better designed, more effective, streamlined clinical trials in order to get lifesaving treatments to those who need them. We need better ways to understand the benefits and harms of new drugs and different treatment options. And we must carefully monitor and evaluate public health programs in order to ensure they have the maximum positive impact on the populations they serve.


What We Are Doing

Gillings School leaders in clinical trials, comparative effectiveness and monitoring and evaluation are finding new methods to get safe and effective therapies to the marketplace with speed and precision, ensure that state-of-the-art analysis is brought to bear so that practitioners can make optimal drug treatment decisions for their patients, and enhance the benefits of public health programs. Read More

The Innovative Clinical Trials Laboratory has become a global leader in research on the design and conduct of clinical trials. Clinical trials play a monumental role in biomedical research and health care in various areas of public health, including cancer, AIDS, psychiatric medicine, nutrition, epidemiology, environmental heath, cardiovascular disease, and many other areas of general medicine. One of the major goals of the Center is to more efficiently and rapidly make scientific advances available to researchers, practitioners, the biomedical community, and the public. The Center has built highly interdisciplinary and integrated research teams that are capable of producing new methodology and putting it into clinical and statistical practice. The Center does not focus only on medicine trials, but all types of clinical trials, some of which may involve non-drug interventions such as health promotion.

The Innovative Methods Program for Advancing Clinical Trials is a comprehensive program that aims to dramatically improve the health and longevity of people by improving the clinical trial process. This program is a joint venture of Duke University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is funded in part by the National Cancer Institute through a program project grant entitled “Statistical Methods for Cancer Clinical Trials.”  Our approach is to leverage recent advances in statistical and computational science to create new clinical trial designs and data analysis tools that resolve many of the key scientific limitations of current clinical trial methodology. Our research focuses on: practical design and analysis problems in clinical trials, the problem of missing data and efficient use of prognostic information, post-marketing surveillance and comparative effectiveness research using clinical trial data, pharamacogenomics and individualized therapies, and the potential of Sequential Multiple Assignment Randomized Trials (SMARTs) to discover dynamic treatment regimens to improve cancer treatment.

Biostatistics methods are a central strength and focus of the Department of Biostatistics at the Gillings School. We are engaged in the development of cutting edge design and analysis methodology in virtually every area of health research, including Bayesian methodology, categorical data analysis, clinical trials, population studies, demography, empirical processes, survival analysis, longitudinal data, structural equation modeling, medical imaging, survey sampling, spatial data, missing data, semiparametric and nonparametric methods, statistical genomics, computational biology, and new and evolving design and methodology areas in medicine and health. Our faculty and students develop and apply these designs and methods as well as formulate new ways of thinking about, interpreting, and understanding data in health research.

The Gillings Center for Pharmacoepidemiology generates practical, innovative solutions to challenges in the assessment of benefits and harms of medical interventions in real-world settings. Its collaborations range across the pharmaceutical industry, government, and regulatory agencies,  The Center offers approaches and solutions that are both scientifically rigorous and pragmatic, aiming to generate valid scientific evidence about outcomes, comparative clinical effectiveness, and appropriateness of health-care interventions and services.  UNC provides excellent infrastructure for large, multicenter studies, and has an impressive track record of fruitful collaborations in which scientists from academia and the pharmaceutical industry have collaborated on a range of cutting-edge projects, products and publications, such as global studies of asthma mortality.

The Center’s academic leaders understand patient privacy, the needs and perspectives of the pharmaceutical industry and the enormous potential of academic-industry partnerships.

Epidemiologic methods are a tradition and a central pillar of the Department of Epidemiology at the Gillings School. UNC faculty and students develop and employ innovative randomized and observational population-health study designs and novel analytic approaches, which together maximize the information yield from public health research. Epidemiology faculty members include global thought leaders in the application of modern and hypermodern epidemiologic methods to cancer, environmental/occupational health, HIV, and pharmacoepidemiology. The application of methods is relevant to studies conducted globally and domestically. Members of the Causal Inference Research Group ( from Epidemiology, Biostatistics and other departments advance methodology for understanding causality in global public health contexts. We seek to identify and assess candidate interventions that will minimize population mortality and morbidities and thereby improve human health.

Monitoring and evaluation of public health programs to improve their quality and impact is a hallmark of the Gillings School, spanning all of our departments and programs.  Our M&E strengths are epitomized by the MEASURE Evaluation project, hosted at UNC, which is the USAID Global Health Bureau’s primary vehicle for supporting improvements in monitoring and evaluation in population, health and nutrition worldwide. MEASURE staff help to identify data needs, collect and analyze technically sound data, and use those data for health decision making.

Who Is Involved

Our leaders in public health studies come from across the Gilling School, and include our world-class faculty, staff, post-docs and students.  This overview only captures a fraction of the important research, teaching, and public service efforts in public health studies at the Gillings School.  Please explore the individual leader descriptions to learn more about their work.