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Data-Driven Decisions

Zachary Ward ’09, Programmer, Center for Health Decision Science, Harvard School of Public Health

Zachary WardZachary Ward: Self-Designed Global Health Management major

Government officials in Ethiopia have money from the Center for Disease Control to prevent women from dying in childbirth. They could spend it to train birth attendants in safe labor practices. Or they could spend it on enabling more women to give birth in hospitals. Which intervention will save more women’s lives?

To answer this question, they turn to the Harvard Center for Health Decision Science, where Zachary Ward ’09 works as a programmer. Ward creates computer models that simulate life-saving interventions, using as much available data as possible. By putting the results of these simulations in the hands of policymakers, the Center hopes to help save lives and improve health — based on the best available data.

“It’s sort of what I’ve wanted to do all along, but I didn’t know the field existed,” he says. At SPU, Ward created a self-designed major in global health management, advised by Associate Professor of Sociology Kevin Neuhouser. He took courses in business, computer science, and sociology, among other disciplines.

“I highlighted all the classes I thought would be useful, took the list to Dr. Neuhouser, and he helped me whittle it down,” he recalls. Post-SPU, he earned a master of public health degree from l’Ecole des Hautes Études en Santé Publique in Paris, then was hired at Harvard.

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