Data science

Population health is a systems framework for studying and improving the health of populations through collective action and learning.

Data science is the art and science of transforming data into actionable knowledge.

Population health data science (PHDS) is the art and science of transforming data into actionable knowledge to improve population health.

Actionable knowledge is knowledge that informs, influences, or optimizes decision making. Actionable knowledge is the most important concept: without actionable knowledge all you have is data or information.

In public health we promote the idea of data-driven decision making. Unfortunately, this is much easier said than done. With the emergence and popularity of data science we have the opportunity to improve our decision making. I believe strongly that the path is through human-centered design (design thinking) of actionable knowledge.

First we need to understand the landscape. Figure 1 displays a simplified view of data analytics [1]. To become data science it must inform, influence, or optimize decision making; i.e., actionable knowledge.

Figure 1: A simplified view of data analytics


  1. Stefan Conrady & Lionel Jouffe. Bayesian Networks and BayesiaLab---A Practical Introduction for Researchers. Bayesia USA, 2015. Available from

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