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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

Harvard Faculty Wins Award to Develop Effective Public Health Interventions

Dr. 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, Dr. 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.

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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.

Dr. 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.

“Cost-effectiveness is a key element of the implementation science toolkit,” Dr. Spiegelman said. “Two interventions might be quite similar in their effectiveness, but if one is substantially less costly to roll out and sustain, the population-level benefits are clear, particularly in this era of shrinking resources both domestically and globally.” Read more