Public health experts at Duke are taking steps to establish a new population health department in the School of Medicine with the recent launch of the Center for Population Health Sciences.

The center will be directed by Dr. Lesley Curtis, professor of medicine and director of the Center for Pragmatic Health Services Research in the Duke Clinical Research Institute. It will aim to identify important factors that govern the health of populations and individuals and will also seek to provide new research solutions based on disciplines such as epidemiology, health services research, health economics and statistics.

Population health sciences uses data from large, defined groups to understand the determinants of health and improve treatments.

Curtis wrote in an email that the CPHS will partner with other campus departments, including the DCRI, Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy, the Duke Global Health Institute, the Center for Community and Population Health Improvement and the Duke University Health System.

“Collaboration with other clinical research centers is one of the most exciting aspects of what lies ahead,” she wrote. “I expect collaborations across many dimensions ranging from co-sponsorship of colloquium events to co-development of educational programs and research initiatives. By working together, we capitalize on each other’s strengths, address unmet needs and create a stronger foundation for [our future research].”

The launch of the CPHS comes almost a year after Dr. A. Eugene Washington began his tenure as chancellor for health affairs and president and CEO of DUHS with the goal of making Duke a model for population health management.

Curtis explained that the idea for establishing the CPHS began as a discussion between senior administrators at the School of Medicine last Spring. Representatives from the University’s many groups that perform clinical research and study health policy were later assembled to develop the new center and shape its vision, she added.

Duke’s Center for Community and Population Health Improvement was one of the groups involved in establishing the CPHS and hopes to complement the new initiative’s goals, wrote Dr. Ebony Boulware, professor of medicine and director of the CCPHI, in an email. The work of the CCPHI centers on developing partnerships with local and regional health leaders, and it will harness these relationships to improve health equity and eliminate health disparities in collaboration with the new center, she explained.

“Researchers of CCPHI will be intimately engaged with those of CPHS—I envision many faculty may have affiliations in both, although our missions are distinct,” she wrote. “I also believe that the Center for Population Health Sciences will focus on developing research methodologies that can [someday] be applied in Centers like CCPHI to better understand the determinants and drivers of health.”