Who Gets Sick and Who Doesn't: Understanding Vulnerability to Illness
Public health programs are designed to improve the health of the population and reduce inequities. Epidemiologist Dr. James Blanchard supports this goal by studying how communicable diseases, such as HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), spread in diverse populations, and why some communities are more at risk for non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), than are others.
In his studies of communicable disease, Dr. Blanchard is focused on preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STIs in Karnataka and Rajasthan in India. More than four million people in India have been infected with HIV. Dr. Blanchard combines socio-demographic surveys with studies designed to understand the social and sexual networks through which HIV is transmitted in India. He is also examining existing prevention programs. In his studies of non-communicable diseases, Dr. Blanchard is focused on the epidemiology of diabetes mellitus and inflammatory bowel disease in Canada. Non-communicable diseases are responsible for the majority of preventable disability and death here, yet much needs to be learned about their causes and population distribution.
Diabetes affects more than three percent of adult Canadians, but the prevalence of diabetes and its complications (such as kidney disease and vascular disease) are not evenly distributed throughout the country. Dr. Blanchard is studying its distribution and complications in order to design prevention programs.
The second non-communicable disease that interests Dr. Blanchard is IBD (including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis), which affects more than 100,000 Canadians. He is analyzing health databases and conducting detailed surveys to understand IBD's distribution in Canada and to identify the individual characteristics that increase the risk of developing it.
Dr. Blanchard hopes that his research on two continents will result in the development of effective public health programs for the prevention of disease and for the efficient allocation of health services.