School of Population Health

Epidemiology and Biostatistics - Research

The research focus of this section is on the application of epidemiological and biostatistical methods across the spectrum of health, disease and disability from clinical practice to public health.

Research is currently undertaken mainly in four domains:

  • Public health epidemiology and biostatistics
  • Health services / clinical epidemiology and biostatistics
  • Public health: clinical services interface
  • Quality improvement and health informatics

The section also houses a quantitative research consultancy service that provides support across all the domains above and also supports biomedical research.

The Public Health Epidemiology and Biostatistics domain currently has four key research groupings:

  • Health Geography and Deprivation in New Zealand Health Geography includes themes such as health inequalities and how social and physical environments shape human health. Deprivation is defined as a lack of the types of diet, clothing, housing and environmental, educational, working and social conditions, activities and facilities which are customary. This research has led to the development of online tools such as the New Zealand Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) and the Auckland Regional Vascular Atlas (ARVA). Work is currently underway on a tool to measure the socioeconomic status of people aged 65 and over.
  • Injury and Trauma (a research group focused mainly on road traffic injury and disability).
    • Burden of Alcohol (a research group quantifying the burden of death, disease and disability related to alcohol consumption in NZ).
    • Life Course Research (this is a new field of research for the section which examines the relative impact of exposures from the beginning through to the end of life on health).
  • VIEW study (Vascular Informatics Using Epidemiology and the Web) is an HRC-funded research programme that seeks to predict vascular risk more accurately, map variation in vascular risk to determine in whom, where and when in the continuum of care disparities occur, and model what interventions are likely to have greatest impact on improving vascular outcomes. VIEW represents a large-scale, health informatics initiative linking anonymised individual data from multiple datasets, on several million New Zealanders.
  • Global Health   Globalisation carries with it many challenges. Today health determinants and health risks demands a global response and health professionals require new knowledge, skills and ideas to tackle these challenges effectively.
  • Transport & Health.  Alistair Woodward investigates transport and health. Here are opportunities to improve safety, make cities better places to live in, and promote the health of citizens. He is part of the Te Ara Mua Future Streets research group, which is conducting a trial of improvements of suburban streets in south Auckland. With Kirsty Wild, he leads a stream of work in the MBIE-funded programme on Healthy Future Mobility Solutions. This examines the Future of the Bike, including studies on the potential of the electric bicycle, the origins of ‘bike lash’ (public resistance to bike lanes) and new measures of cycling and route quality.  Link to  paper on Future Streets:  Mackie, H., Journal of Transport & Health,
  • Air Pollution and Health - Kim Dirks investigates the impact of urban environment on the health and well-being of urban residents. With international collaborators (including the University of Leeds and Lancaster) and across the university, she has been involved in a number of projects investigating the role of urban transport infrastructure, as well as mode and route choice on the air pollution exposure of urban commuters (Example publication: Supporting healthy route choice for commuter cyclists: The trade-off between travel time and pollutant dose (DOI: 10.1016/j.orhc.2018.04.001).  She also investigates (with collaborators from Audiology, AUT and the University of Otago) on the impact of transport noise on the health and well-being of exposed communities (Example publication: Health-related quality of life is impacted by proximity to an airport in noise sensitive people (DOI: 10.4103/1463-1741.113513 ).

An additional group within the Section is the Effective Practice, Informatics and Quality improvement (EPIQ) group. EPIQ has three inter-related subgroups:

  • Effective Practice
  • Informatics/Knowledge Management
  • Quality Improvement

EPIQ's major research activity at present is focused around PREDICT, a web-based platform for providing ‘moment of care’ evidence-based decision support practitioners for getting research into practice. The programme also generates research from practice by keeping a record of the patient-practitioner interaction. Current PREDICT projects include primary care-based CVD and diabetes risk management and risk assessment/prioritisation for coronary artery bypass grafting.

The section's Public Health: Clinical Services Interface domain is developing research expertise in screening, which draws on both public health sciences because the context is a population and clinical sciences because the activity involves a clinical action. Our current screening research activities include:

  • CVD and diabetes risk
  • cervical cancer (the section is involved in the National Cervical Cancer Screening Programme audit)
  • breast screening (the section has recently agreed to provide support for evaluating the National Breast Cancer Screening Programme)

The Biostatistics Unit includes four biostatisticians who provide a consultancy service for all researchers in the Faculty of Medical & Health Sciences.  They work in biomedical, clinical, health services and public health fields.