Chronic Disease Epidemiology Department

Xiaomei Ma, Ph.D., Interim Chair 

Epidemiology is the study of the frequency, distribution, and causes of diseases in human populations. Chronic Disease Epidemiology (CDE) aims to enhance understanding about the determinants of chronic diseases in populations and how to intervene most effectively to reduce morbidity and mortality due to chronic diseases. CDE strives to advance public health by promoting a research-based approach to the prevention and management of chronic disease. By focusing on the health of populations, as opposed to individuals, CDE utilizes places (neighborhoods, cities, states, countries), institutions (schools, housing developments, correctional facilities, workplaces), and health care facilities (newborn nurseries, nursing homes, public health clinics, hospitals) as its laboratories.

CDE students learn how to identify the types of data needed, choose appropriate data collection methods, collect the data, and analyze the data appropriately so that the whole research effort leads to the improvement of the health of populations. The CDE curriculum emphasizes critical thinking, based on thorough knowledge of research methods, and its application to the scientific literature, to the development of research protocols, and to the design, implementation, and analysis of epidemiologic investigations. A principal research instrument of the chronic disease epidemiologist is often the questionnaire. The development of valid, reliable, and unambiguous questionnaires is a skill taught to all CDE students. Increasingly, epidemiologists also make use of genetic and biologic markers to indicate exposure to potentially damaging agents or as signs of increased susceptibility to or early onset of disease. Students learn the role of these methodologies throughout the program through course work, seminars, and practicum experiences.

Students learn about the role of epidemiology in a broad range of public health and medical areas, including the fields of aging, cancer, cardiovascular disease, global health, molecular and genetic epidemiology, perinatal and reproductive epidemiology, and psychosocial epidemiology, all areas in which the CDE department has particular strength. Among the resources available to students are the Yale Cancer Center; the Connecticut Tumor Registry (the oldest of its kind in the world); the Center for Perinatal, Pediatric, and Environmental Epidemiology; the Yale Program on Aging; and the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS. M.P.H. graduates of the CDE department find employment in a variety of research, public health practice, and advocacy settings, including academic institutions; public health agencies at the international, national, state, and local levels; the pharmaceutical industry; charitable foundations; and a variety of other nonprofit organizations. For example, graduates may obtain positions in such federal agencies as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nonprofit agencies, such as cancer or heart associations, also recruit graduates to participate in or direct community health programs. Private industries, including pharmaceutical companies, find the quantitative skills of CDE graduates useful in monitoring drug safety and in conducting clinical research. Many CDE graduates subsequently pursue doctoral degrees in public health or other professional or academic fields.

All M.P.H. CDE students require documentation of an integrated learning experience component with guidance from the department chair and academic advisers. To fulfill this requirement, students take one of the following courses in the second year and complete the Integrated Learning Experience Form accordingly: CDE 572, CDE 617, CDE 650, CDE 535, SBS 574, EMD 625, or EPH 525.

Departmental Requirements

BIS 505Biostatistics in Public Health II1
CDE 516Principles of Epidemiology II 11
CDE 525Seminar in Chronic Disease Epidemiology 10
CDE 526Seminar in Chronic Disease Epidemiology 10
CDE 534Applied Analytic Methods in Epidemiology 11
One of the following:
BIS 540Fundamentals of Clinical Trials1
BIS 621Regression Models for Public Health1
BIS 623Advanced Regression Models1
BIS 628Longitudinal and Multilevel Data Analysis1
BIS 630Applied Survival Analysis1
One of the following (completed in second year):
CDE 535Epidemiology of Heart Disease and Stroke1
CDE 572Obesity Prevention and Lifestyle Interventions1
CDE 617Developing a Research Proposal1
CDE 650Introduction to Evidence-Based Medicine and Health Care1
EMD 625How to Develop, Write, and Evaluate an NIH Proposal1
EPH 525Thesis2
SBS 574Developing a Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Intervention1

Electives Chronic disease epidemiology students must take two additional CDE elective courses and are strongly advised to take a third additional CDE course as one of their remaining general electives.


Upon receiving an M.P.H. with a concentration in Chronic Disease Epidemiology, the student will be able to:

  • Create and manipulate data sets and variables to evaluate epidemiologic associations
  • Conduct and interpret a multivariable linear regression analysis to evaluate epidemiologic associations
  • Conduct and interpret a multivariable logistic regression analysis to evaluate epidemiologic associations
  • Understand the application and interpretation of survival analysis in epidemiologic studies
  • Understand the principles of meta-analysis and interpret a meta-analysis study