Epidemiology is a fundamental population science and tries to provide answers about why people become sick. Part of the discipline is to describe distributions of disease and health in populations and another is to examine causality (often starting with hypotheses generated from these disease descriptions). Answers can be found by comparing disease impacts among people with and without an exposure. Thoughtful interpretation is essential in this largely observational science that uses groups of free-living humans as subjects. Epidemiology is a science at the heart of public health.
At present, access to learning about epidemiology is largely restricted to adult students in schools of public health, medical schools, and in a limited number of undergraduate programs. Yet we have seen how younger students become excited about learning epidemiology. They respond to interesting questions about health behaviors and issues that are relevant to their lives and are attracted by the rich opportunities that epidemiology provides to test their analytical, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills.
The project is led by Project Director Dr. Mark Kaelin and Principal Investigator Dr. Wendy Huebner.
Mark is a health educator and a professor in the Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences, at Montclair State University. He attended the Columbia University Teachers College and received an EdD in 1982.
Over the past 20 years, he has created curricula for and taught epidemiology to middle school, high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. He has led more than twenty-five epidemiology education professional development workshops for middle and high school teachers and presented at numerous professional meetings. He was a member of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation / College Board’s Young Epidemiology Scholars Working Group during which, in partnership with four epidemiologists, he wrote six peer-reviewed teaching units.
Wendy attended the Columbia University School of Public Health (CUSPH) and received a MPH in Epidemiology in 1986 and a PhD in Cancer Epidemiology in 1990. She subsequently conducted epidemiology courses at Columbia and was a consulting epidemiologist for the Division of Environmental Sciences. She recently completed a 17-year career with ExxonMobil Biomedical Sciences, Inc. Since 1993 she has been the lead epidemiologist for the Health Status Registry and helped develop a clinical health surveillance system for remote work locations. She has been the principal investigator in several occupational health studies, including a study of leukemia among refinery and chemical plant workers, several mortality surveillance studies of company cohorts, and studies of musculoskeletal injury and illness. She was the principal author and administrator of comprehensive ethics guidelines stewarded by the company's health research ethics committee.
Since 2000, Mark and Wendy have worked together toward the goal of infusing epidemiology education into middle and high school classes. They have collaborated in four grants from the National Institutes of Health, to develop, teach, and disseminate epidemiology curricula. They are founding members of the Epidemiology Education Movement, a grassroots, sweat-equity organization advocating the teaching of epidemiology in grades 6-12 for the purposes of improving scientific literacy and increasing the number of students preparing for careers in public health. They have published several articles about their work in advocating epidemiology education, evaluating effectiveness of educational interventions, and planning effective professional development experiences.
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1. Empowers students to be scientifically literate participants in the democratic decision-making process concerning public health policy.
2. Empowers students to make more informed personal health-related decisions.
3. Increases students' media literacy and their understanding of public health messages.
4. Increases students' understanding of the basis for determining risk.
5. Improves students' mathematical and scientific literacy.
6. Expands students' understanding of scientific methods and develops critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
7. Provides students with another mechanism for exploring important, real world questions about their health and the health of others.
8. Introduces students to an array of career paths related to the public's health.