Throughout the history of our division, our researchers have explored the role of environment, culture, and genes in human biology and disease. They have sought to understand, then help modify, such issues as: the effects of wartime starvation; diet and the risk of heart attack; diet, alcohol, obesity, and tobacco as causes of cancer; physical fitness to help in weight control with aging; and handling adolescent rebellion to avoid smoking and drunk driving.
The following studies have shaped the direction of the division and its contributions to the public health.
Bernard Harlow (current director), Russell Luepker (director 1991-2004), Henry Blackburn (director 1983 -1994), John Finnegan (current dean of SPH)
The Division of Epidemiology & Community Health (EpiCH) has been centrally involved for more than 74 years with regional, national, and international studies of the distribution and causes and the prevention of major diseases, while under the leadership of four directors.
Ancel Keys founded the Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene (LPH) , a predecessor of the Division, and directed it from 1937 to 1972. Henry Blackburn became director of the LPH with Keys’ retirement in 1972 and integrated the former research institute into the graduate research and training of the university’s School of Public Health. These organizations focused on physiologic processes and cardiovascular disease. Leonard Schuman was longtime director of the Division of Epidemiology until 1983, which focused on polio and cancer. Blackburn presided over the integration of the LPH with the Division of Epidemiology upon Len Schuman’s retirement in 1983. During Blackburn’s tenure the Division carried out many behavioral and community health-oriented projects.
Under Russell Luepker ‘s leadership between 1991 and 2004, the Division further diversified to include active research and training programs in nutrition, alcohol, adolescent health behavior, maternal and child health, prevention policy, and genetics. It expanded into study of diabetes, cancers, and infectious disease. Robert Jeffery became interim head of the division in 2004. While maintaining its vigorous program of biologic research, in recognition of the many behavioral faculty, the division changed its name in 2005 to Epidemiology and Community Health. In 2006, the division welcomed Bernard Harlow as our current division head.
The Seven Countries Study
The Seven Countries Study was the first to examine systematically the relation among lifestyle, diet, and the rates of heart attack and stroke in contrasting populations. It is one of the finer scientific adventures of our time and a seminal research study in of the field of cardiovascular disease epidemiology.
• Read more about the study