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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Public Health Dynamics Laboratory Opens at University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

PITTSBURGH, July 8, 2010 – The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) has established the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory (PHDL) to develop interdisciplinary computational approaches to understand and solve the world’s most challenging public health issues. Led by John Grefenstette, Ph.D., professor of biostatistics at GSPH, the PHDL will be officially launched at an event today from 4:30 to 7 p.m., Room A115, Crabtree Hall, 130 DeSoto St., Oakland. In addition to Dr. Grefenstette, speakers include George Klinzing, Ph.D., vice provost for research at Pitt, and Donald S. Burke, M.D., GSPH dean.

Computational modeling in public health typically is associated with the evaluation of strategies to contain infectious disease outbreaks, but it also can be applied to behavioral health, emergency response planning and health policy.

“One of the major challenges we face in improving public health is predicting how well certain interventions will work,” said Dr. Burke. “By using computational modeling across diverse disciplines, the PHDL will help us test the impact of a multitude of intervention strategies and select those that have the most likelihood of preventing illness and death.”

According to Dr. Grefenstette, the laboratory will serve as a “collaboratorium,” by bringing together epidemiologists, biostatisticians, behavioral scientists, public health policy experts and computational scientists to produce the next generation of tools for public health analysis. Areas of focus include infectious diseases; vaccine distribution in developing countries; public health response to epidemics and other emergencies; social networks and their effects on obesity, smoking and other health behaviors; racism, segregation and health disparities; and open access to historical and current public health data.

PHDL collaborators include experts at Pitt’s Center for Simulation and Modeling; the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center; Pitt’s schools of Medicine, Engineering, and Arts and Sciences; and Carnegie Mellon University.

Current projects underway at the PHDL include:

  • Modeling of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS) - a collaborative network of scientists formed in 2009 to develop and use computational models to improve the nation’s response to infectious disease outbreaks, such as H1N1.
  • Vaccine Modeling Initiative – a partnership among infectious disease modeling teams at the University of Pittsburgh, The Pennsylvania State University and Imperial College London to evaluate new vaccine technologies for influenza, measles and dengue―diseases that affect millions of people globally.
  • Public Health Adaptive Systems Studies – one of nine Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Centers funded through a five-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve the response of the nation’s public health system to emergency situations.
  • Fogarty Training in Thailand – a training grant to strengthen epidemiologic research in planning and response to emerging influenza outbreaks in Thailand.  

The PHDL event is free and open to the public. A reception will follow in the GSPH Community Commons, 118 Parran Hall. For more information about the event, contact Jill Ruempler at (412) 383-8849.

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