Nicholas Christakis

Nicholas Christakis

Professor of Medical Sociology, Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School; Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Attending physician in the Department of Medicine at the Harvard-affil
Nicholas Christakis, MD, MPH, PhD, is an internist and social scientist who conducts research on social factors that affect health and health care. He is a professor of medical sociology in the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School; professor of sociology in the Department of Sociology in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences; and an attending physician in the Department of Medicine at the Harvard-affiliated Mt. Auburn Hospital. He codirects the Robert Wood Johnson Scholars in Health Policy program at Harvard.

Dr. Christakis' past work has examined the accuracy and role of prognosis in medicine, ways of improving end-of-life care, and the determinants and outcomes of hospice use. His book on prognosis, Death Foretold: Prophecy and Prognosis in Medical Care, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 1999 and has been broadly reviewed and translated into Japanese (in 2006).

Currently, he is principally concerned with health and social networks, and specifically with how ill health, health behavior, health care, and death in one person can influence the same phenomena in others in a person's social network. Some current work focuses on the health benefits of marriage and on how ill health in one spouse can have cascading effects on the other spouse. It seems likely that improving the health of one partner in a marriage can have meaningful effects on the health of the other, and that both parties would value this -- in a way that influences health policy. Other work examines a very large social network (of 12,000 people, including family, friends, and neighbors) followed for over 30 years to look broadly at the role of networks in health and health care. A separate line of research involves developing the conceptual and practical foundations of the problem of iatrogenesis and examining physicians' responses to the problem of medical harm.

Dr. Christakis' research has implications for understanding why people become sick and how they use medical care to become well again. It also has implications for clinical and policy actions to enhance the quality of care given to seriously ill patients.

Dr. Christakis received his BS degree from Yale University, his MD and MPH degrees from Harvard University, and his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. He has served on numerous editorial boards (including the British Medical Journal, the Journal of Palliative Medicine, Palliative Medicine [UK], and the American Journal of Sociology) and review committees (including in the United States, Australia, and Korea). Over the last several years, he has given invited talks in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, South Korea, and South Africa. He teaches quantitative and qualitative research design, epidemiology, medical sociology, health services research, and palliative medicine.

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