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At the Stanford Center for Population Health Sciences, we are motivated every day by the belief that the right kind of data is critical for improving population health and reducing social inequalities in health. As I move into the role of Director, I take seriously the responsibility of facilitating the use of data to improve health.
Over the past five years, it has been exciting to see PHS set the standard for academic research centers worldwide in how best to support the use of data to solve population health and health equity problems, to offer unique data resources to attract the best clinical and population health researchers to Stanford, and to provide the substrate for the development of new algorithms and approaches to data analysis.
As we move forward, I also want us to use our data to respond directly to the challenges of systemic racism and social inequalities as fundamental causes of health inequalities. This involves listening closely to public needs, and collaboratively understanding where our data can help guide solutions. In the past year, we have partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use our data to examine health inequalities in COVID-19 incidence and long-term complications, and we will continue to work with Public Health Departments across the state to help them better understand the ways in which social factors impact the health of their communities.
Employing our data to target inequalities also means making a directed effort to focus on data sources that can best be used to address health equity, with more data linkable to social and environmental exposures, from across the life course, that reflects not just Zip code but smaller areas of data aggregation. It also means better understanding biases in our data that undermine efforts to address health equity. To this end, we have a new collaboration with the U.S. Census Bureau to understand errors in our data as they relate to classification of race and ethnicity.
In entering this new role as Director, I owe a tremendous amount to Prof. Melissa Bondy, with whom I have had the joy of working with as Co-Director for the past two years. Fortunately, her support and this collaboration will continue, as PHS is now administratively centered within the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, which she chairs. I also want to thank the staff at PHS for all they have done over the past five years to build population health at Stanford and make possible your access to the best data for accomplishing your research goals. I couldn’t imagine a better team to work alongside to accomplish our shared mission.
Addressing health inequalities requires involvement from a broad coalition of stakeholders, and I believe everyone in our broader Stanford community can contribute in a meaningful way. It involves changes in clinical care, community programs, and social policy. For the 900 current Stanford faculty and trainees with projects that use our data, I welcome your suggestions for how we can be even better going into the future. If you don’t use our data, let me know if you have ideas on how we can help you accomplish your research goals in population health and health equity. I believe everyone can contribute and I hope that you will join us in this effort.
- David Rehkopf, Sc.D., MPH
- Director, Center for Population Health Sciences
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