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National and international health policies should be based on accurate and meaningful health information. ‘Burden of disease’ is concept that was developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and others to describe death and loss of health due to diseases, injuries and risk factors; measures of the burden of disease are frequently used to quantify the impact of diseases at a global level. Linked electronic health records are a rich source of clinical information, but at present such records are not use at a local or national level to estimate the burden of disease in populations. Accurately estimating the burden of disease using electronic health records has the potential to transform the measurement of population health in the UK and elsewhere. This project will use UK Biobank, a prospective cohort study of 0.5 million adults, to develop methods for the reliable measurement of the burden of disease using the cohort’s linked electronic health records. The burden of disease in the cohort will be described for major population subgroups (such as by age, sex, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status) over time. These methods will then be applied to local or national datasets of linked electronic health records. There is scope to tailor the project to the student’s interest and background, including engagement in international collaborations.


The student will work within the rich academic environment of the Nuffield Department of Population Health and affiliated institutions, gaining research experience and skills training in epidemiology and statistics. The successful candidate will have access to the UK Biobank, a prospective cohort study comprising around 0.5 million adults of middle aged and older. The cohort study has collected extensive data about its participants, including genomic data (genotyping, exome- and whole-genome sequencing), deep phenotype data, and information on clinical events and treatment through linkage to NHS primary care, hospital records, cancer registry data, and mortality (ONS) records. The student will be supported through regular research meetings and will have the opportunity to participate in training and seminars offered by the unit.


By the end of the DPhil, it is expected that the candidate will be able to plan, undertake and interpret statistical analysis of large-scale epidemiological data, and to report their findings. The candidate will have acquired transferable skills including drafting project proposals, and presenting the research findings at national and international meetings. The candidate will be encouraged to publish peer-reviewed papers as lead author.


Candidates should have a degree in Medicine or Biomedical Science or Social Science, and have postgraduate training or experience in epidemiology or biostatistics.