Epidemiology Research Unit

Established with the creation of the Institute in 1999, the Epidemiology Research Unit has quietly built up a significant body of research through the work and accomplishments of its Child Development and Chronic Diseases Research Groups. Epidemiology is defined as the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events in specified populations and the application of this study to the control of health problems.

Child Development Group

The Child development Research Group focuses on innovation in early childhood interventions for parents, teachers and other caregivers. The Reach Up early childhood parenting programme is being scaled nationally in Jamaica and has been adapted and used in diverse countries, leading to the development of a Reach Up global network. The Irie Classroom and Irie Homes Toolbox are early childhood, violence prevention programmes that prevent violence against children at school and at home and prevent the early development of antisocial behaviour. New work includes a focus on processes to support scaling of early childhood programmes with quality, and investigation of the mechanisms leading to adult gains for participants in the Jamaica home-visiting programme.

Faculty Members

  • Helen Baker-Henningham
  • Susan Chang-Lopez
  • Joanne Smith
  • Susan Walker
  • Amika Wright


Ground breaking Child Development research which have won international acclaim and are global best practices.

The Child Development Group’s body of work was built on training parents in the use of simple, low cost practical interventions to improve the intellectual capacity of children at high risk of adverse developmental outcomes from malnutrition and under-nutrition. This simple intervention done when children where 3-5 years old has shown benefits through to adulthood with these children less likely to be involved in violent crime, performing better academically and earning more than those who did not receive the intervention (30 year follow up of the Jamaica Home Visiting Project).

Lessons from these interventions are now being shared globally through the Reach Up Study and with all parents attending health centres islandwide through a partnership with the Jamaica Ministry of Health and Wellness (IDB project).

Irie Classroom and Irie Homes: violence prevention through school based interventions that promote less use of harsh punishment or physical violence by basic and primary school teachers, as well as parents of those children. Partnerships with the Early Childhood Commission will ensure that these are integrated into the training curriculum of these teachers to ensure sustainability.

Research Partners

  • Ministry of Health and Wellness
  • Early Childhood Commission

Chronic Disease Group

ERU's contribution in providing current data on prevalence and risk factors for Chronic Disease, by producing national health and lifestyle surveys over the past two decades, has been of tremendous value to Jamaica, informing policy towards control of the NCD epidemic including decisions on National Health Fund subsidies as well as allowed the country to achieve its international reporting guidelines. The Unit conducts research that evaluates the impact of existing policies and interventions and seek to make recommendations to strengthen delivery of care, improve outcomes and ultimately reduce mortality among persons with NCDs.


The ERU offers training programmes in Epidemiology including the MSc and PhD degrees and the Postgraduate Diploma in Health Research and Epidemiology.

Faculty Members

  • Nadia Bennett
  • Trevor Ferguson
  • Ishtar Govia
  • Marshall Tulloch-Reid


Research evidencing the Unit’s commitment to pushing the envelope of research innovation and Intervention.

The LIFE Project, a 8000 person island-wide cohort study funded by the National Institutes of Health (USA) to examine risk factors for chronic diseases including diabetes hypertension, cardiovascular disease and cancer. This is the largest cohort study to date in Jamaica and the findings will help inform risk factors for chronic diseases in the African diaspora though comparison with US-based and other cohort studies of Black populations.

The Caribbean and South America Teach Based Strategy to Control Hypertension (CATCH) study was funded by the NIH under the GACD initiative to focus on building a team based approach using the best evidence to help patients in Columbia and Jamaica to improve blood pressure control. Hypertension is a major risk factor for many important health conditions including stroke, heart disease, kidney failure and dementia and lower blood pressures help to reduce this risk.

Research Partners

Ministry of Health and Wellness: Improving our understanding of dietary salt intake at a population level.

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Lown Scholars Program Award: Examining cardiovascular health in urban populations

Global Health through the STRIDE project investigating global issues in dementia

Fox Chase Cancer Center African American Cancer Consortium to build research capacity

NCD risk factor Collaboration to understand risk factors for these conditions through data sharing and the Regional Centre for Research Excellence in Cardiometabolic Disease and Cancer

The UWI Department of Community Health and Psychiatry