Johns Hopkins Trains Public Health Students to Use AHRQ Data
Professors at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have introduced graduate and doctoral students to the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), giving students a hands-on introduction to the dataset. In doing so, the School's Population, Family, and Reproductive Health division is preparing a new generation of public health students to use MEPS data.
Courtland Robinson, PhD, a Hopkins assistant professor, says, "The response from students to MEPS has been positive across the board." Hopkins graduate and doctoral students learn about MEPS-one of 10 datasets they are introduced to-in a course titled, "Application of Population Data for Policy and Practice."
Public health students get to see how MEPS and other datasets are constructed, how to access the datasets, and how to do basic data analysis. MEPS data was integrated into the course during the 2008/09 academic year and is expected to become a mainstay of the curriculum.
"It's been very well received," adds Robinson, who is also deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Refugee and Disaster Response.
Other Hopkins instructors also have students working with MEPS. Sai Ma, PhD, an assistant scientist, has students working with MEPS in a session on data for health service use and expenditure.
Ma says, "Most of my students are more familiar with datasets containing population health indicators, but not cost or service data. Students find they can really relate to the MEPS data on insurance status, copayment, and coinsurance."
She adds, "Very interesting information is collected by MEPS... it is done every year, and you can use it to look at the trend. It can really inform some policy discussions."
Both Ma and her students report that the MEPS Web site is very user-friendly, and it is easy to find datasets to download or summarized statistics. "Students love the hands-on session of searching for summary data on expenses and service use, by age, gender, race/ethnicity, and disease types."