CPC’s Signature Research Approaches

CPC is known internationally for its rigorous approach to research with a focus on all aspects of the research lifecycle to ensure high-quality data are collected and analyzed, and results and data are shared. The center focuses on the use of the best methodologies to examine complex questions. A priority is to make the results of this work available to the research community and policy- and decision-makers. The following three signature research approaches individually and in combination make CPC research distinctive and innovative.

Incorporating factors at multiple levels (e.g., biological, social, and environmental determinants) has produced a long history of interdisciplinary work at CPC. CPC’s most significant and enduring contributions have been the design, collection, and dissemination of large public use datasets representing cohorts in the United States, Russia, China, and the Philippines. These data allow scholars at CPC and globally to study an array of factors associated with patterns, trends, determinants, and consequences of forces at the macro/contextual, household/family, individual, and genetic levels as they interact to affect health and human development. These innovations and new data merge survey data, genetic and other biological data and aggregate and contextual level data, resulting in powerful data sources to address complex health and social issues.

Today at CPC, funded projects such as The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), the China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS), and the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey (CLHNS) are valuable resources because they have been collecting data at multiple levels for decades. Their value is enhanced by continued innovation in strategies to collect information to test important current hypotheses regarding the interactive effects of social and biological factors. The collaborative teams that collect and analyze these data position CPC researchers, and scientists in general, for important advances in understanding the mechanisms linking social and biological processes.

Longitudinal research design and analysis supports scientists who realize the importance of temporal dimensions – conceptualized as age, period, and cohort – and the potential impact of events, their timing, and their sequencing. This signature research approach addresses conceptualization, operationalization, and estimation of inter- and intra-generational, multiple-level processes. CPC’s decades-long data collections efforts – including Add Health, CHNS, and CLHNS – allow testing of emerging life course theories with large representative samples. Recent research capitalizes on available longitudinal data for dynamic modeling of intra- and inter-generational linkages. For instance, the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey has shown that early nutrition has long-term impacts on later health and human development.

CPC Fellows collaborate on implementing econometric, structural modeling, and multi-level approaches to longitudinal data. The use of longitudinal data and appropriate analytic strategies move population science toward stronger measurement strategies and identifying causal forces affecting health and human development.

Planning and evaluating interventions and health information systems in complex settings ties basic research to applied population and health policy and programs in complex settings. This signature research approach addresses the need to translate basic research findings into interventions that can be “scaled up” to make a difference to entire populations. This work includes developing and evaluating health information systems that are essential for operational systems to function well and improved health outcomes for people. Several CPC projects, most prominently MEASURE Evaluation, work in partnership with global, national, and local partners in developing countries to strengthen health information systems. These activities build capacity to generate, manage, and use health information at national and subnational levels, helping countries to achieve sustainable improvements in health system performance and health outcomes. Simultaneously, CPC’s research projects, including MEASURE Evaluation, conduct research on health information system performance, studying what interventions work to strengthen these systems and provide training and tools for best practices. CPC’s focus on using research to inform policy is increasingly an expectation of the public and those organizations that fund research. CPC understands this expectation and leads in designing and evaluating interventions and information systems.

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