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James Thomas, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Epidemiology

Director, MEASURE Evaluation Project

Dr. Thomas studies the social forces that establish patterns of disease in communities. He has a particular interest in complex systems and methods for studying them, including network analysis.

Thomas' principal area of research is the application of complexity and systems thinking to the evaluation of global health interventions. With network analysis, he has studied the ability of community-based agencies and organizations to coordinate a complex array of health services for people infected with HIV. To address the many facets of complex interactions, Thomas integrates epidemiologic research with methods from other disciplines, such as anthropology, history, molecular biology, and medical geography. In studies comparing communities, he has adapted measures from sociology to measure the effects of phenomena such as high rates of incarceration on STD rates.
Thomas' second area of expertise is public health ethics. He was the chief author of the American code of ethics for public health, and had been an ethics advisor to the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He is currently researching and writing about cross-cultural public health ethics, and data ethics in routine health information systems.

Thomas is the Director of the MEASURE Evaluation Project, USAID Global Health Bureau's primary vehicle for strengthening the health information systems of developing countries. Funding for MEASURE Evaluation includes PEPFAR, with its focus on HIV and AIDS programs. The cooperative agreement with USAID is for $232 million over five years (2014-2019). In addition, the project has $65 million in "associate awards" for evaluation and for TB data. Thus, the current portfolio for global health monitoring and evaluation is $316 million.

MEASURE Evaluation identifies data needs, enables countries to collect and analyze technically sound data, and to use the data to guide health-related programs and policies. The project has worked in about 60 countries since its inception in 1991 (UNC has been the awardee for the entire time). The project is a consortium of organizations led by UNC. The others are Palladium Group; John Snow, Incorporated; ICF, International; Management Sciences for Health; and Tulane University School of Public Health. Seven faculty from UNC are on the Project; four are CPC fellows.

Thomas' research will further expand the applications of complexity science methods in global health and the evaluation of structural interventions. In ethics, he will research standards in data ethics within routine health information systems as they are implemented world-wide to monitor populatin health expenditures and impacts.

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Last Updated: 2019-09-13