The MPH Outcomes Research Specialty Track gives students the necessary tools to contribute to the body of knowledge that determines how health care practices and interventions affect end results. End results include effects that people experience and care about, such as change in the ability to function. In particular, for individuals with chronic conditions—where cure is not always possible—end results include quality of life as well as mortality. By linking the care people get to the outcomes they experience, outcomes research has become the key to developing better ways to monitor and improve the quality of care.
Time and again, studies have shown that medical practices as commonplace as hysterectomy and hernia repair were performed much more frequently in some areas than in others, even when there were no differences in the underlying rates of disease. Furthermore, there was often no information about the end results for the patients who received a particular procedure, and few comparative studies to show which interventions were most effective. These findings challenged researchers, clinicians, and health systems leaders to develop new tools to assess the impact of health care services. The Outcomes Research Specialty Track gives students the competencies necessary to develop new evidence about benefits, risks, and results of treatments so that patients, physicians, public health practitioners and policy makers can make more informed decisions.
Examples of projects undertaken in this track over the past few years include: evaluating role of persistent depression in adherence to secondary prevention behaviors after acute coronary syndromes; evaluating differences in preventive services offered by gynecologists and generalists; food allergy as a risk factor for asthma morbidity in adults; determining factors associated with adherence to influenza vaccine among inner city adults with persistent asthma; association between minor and major surgical complications after carotid endarterectomy.