Department of Public Health and Epidemiology

RCSI has been teaching public health to medical students since 1841, a time when infectious diseases, child mortality and low life expectancy were affecting the population globally. Since this time, there has been a marked increase in life expectancy in European and North American populations as a result of many factors, including improved sanitation, better working conditions, improved management of infectious disease, and better access to healthcare. However, these improvements have not impacted population health in low-income countries to the same extent.

In most low-income countries, poverty and infectious disease still have a major impact on population health. Poor access to healthcare means that many people do not have access to basic primary care services, as well as tertiary health care such as life-saving surgery. In tandem with this, the rise of non-communicable diseases has brought new challenges to the public health workforce in both high- and low-income countries, and requires new sets of skills among the health workforce.

In addition, climate change has led to an increasing global health burden with the World Health Organization suggesting it is the biggest threat to human health in the 21st Century. In particular, it is recognised that climate change will not affect everyone equally, but it will be the most vulnerable and marginalised who will suffer most. The health workforce needs to have a thorough understanding of these different influences on population health and illness, as well as an understanding of the health professional advocate role in addressing the challenges that need to be faced in the coming years.

At the Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, we bring a broad population perspective to both our teaching and research, and, in particular, we have sought to introduce the concepts of planetary health and inequalities in public health into the undergraduate medical curriculum, including an introduction to the important topic of sustainable healthcare. To facilitate this, we have developed a population framework underpinned by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), which demonstrates how the key public health domains, guided by evidence, integrate to offer an effective and systematic approach to population health, whilst emphasising the role of sustainability and equity.

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At Undergraduate level, staff from the department teach a module that combines evidence-based health (EBH) and public health epidemiology (PHE). This is delivered to Year 1 Graduate Entry Medicine students.

EBH introduces students to research methods; epidemiology and statistics; how to critically assess scientific literature; and ethical and professional issues in health research. PHE provides knowledge and skills to apply epidemiological principles and public health approaches to the measurement and control of major health issues and diseases in patients and populations in resource-poor and resource-rich settings. PHE provides students with both a national and international perspective on population health approaches for disease prevention and control – this reflects the diversity of our students and the populations they will serve.

A new RCSI case-based curriculum will include a vertically integrated theme in epidemiology and public health for Year 1 Direct Entry Medicine students. This theme will consist of health systems and services; health policy, economics and management; clinical informatics and information technology; safety, quality and improvement of care; evidence-based medicine and health; and population, global and public health. Students will be able to map all these concepts on to their sessions utilising the population health framework.

In addition to Undergraduate teaching, our departmental staff also deliver biostatistics and qualitative methods modules and workshops to RCSI Postgraduate students as part of the SPHeRE PhD programme. We supervise and support PhD and Master’s students, and provide research methods and biostatistics support to research staff and students across RCSI.

Our academic and research staff are active researchers from several countries, with strong international networks. Outputs reflect the breadth and depth of knowledge generation for the betterment of individuals and populations in low-, middle- and high-income country settings.

Research funding comes from the European Union, Irish Health Research Board, Irish Aid and others. Our research outputs are strengthened by a remarkably strong group of biostatisticians who have contributed to RCSI becoming Ireland’s leading health sciences university, and an internationally sought-after research partner.

Associate Professor/Interim Head of Department

Lecturers

Postdoctoral Researchers

Research Assistant

  • Eunice Phillip

Professors Emeriti

Honorary Senior Lecturers

  • Paul Kavanagh
  • Sadhbh Lee
  • Lois O’Connor
  • Caoimhe O’Sullivan
  • Niall Roche

Department Administrators

  • Roma Acosta
  • Mary O’Connell