Faculty Spotlight

Ekaterina (Katia) Noyes, PhD, MPH

Katia Noyes, PhD, MPH, is the new director of the Division of Health Services Policy and Practice at the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions.

“Most people evaluate policies emotionally when they really need to look at the outcomes of those policies. Sometimes the evidence is there, but things like politics, religion and other factors get in the way and rather than the most effective policy being implemented, the most socially attractive policy get put in place."”
Ekaterina (Katia) Noyes, PhD, MPH, Director and Professor, Division of Health Services Policy and Practice
Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health

Katia Noyes, PhD, MPH, is a professor and director of the Division of Health Services Policy and Practice in the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health, and the director of the MPH concentration in health services administration. She joined the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions faculty in September 2016 after spending the past 20 years at the University of Rochester. 

Now at UB, Katia's research focus is in all aspects of health policy, including analysis, evaluation and implementation.

Growing up in Russia, Noyes recalls becoming interested in health policy after receiving a scholarship to study abroad in the United States.

"I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to do when I grew up," says Noyes. "I was always good in hard sciences but I was attracted to the potential of medicine to heal and help people live healthier and more productive lives.  When I came to the United States to pursue an undergraduate program in biomedical optics, I quickly discovered how many other professional pathways were out there that combined medicine and science. As I was learning more about the country and meeting new people, I recognized that the U.S. did not have a universal health care system but rather a rudimentary public health system, which was both fascinating and astonishing to me."

In most European countries, universal health care was commonplace. The national healthcare and social system were focused on social welfare not profitability. This was far different than healthcare in the United States.  Not only was the healthcare system different, but social norms and cultural expectations also add to the complexity of the topic of health policy.

"In the U.S., the topic of health policy is very controversial because American culture is all about personal choice and personal responsibility when it comes to health," says Noyes. "So there is this conflict between policy and choice which is most pronounced here in the States, and unfortunately policy research gets caught in the middle."

The Importance of Health Policy

This is why, according to Noyes, understanding how policy works and how to design efficient policy is so important.

"There are many examples of potentially beneficial policies that have been implemented that have negative consequences," explains Noyes. "Take suburban living for example.  When suburbs were originally developed, they were marketed as spacious green places to live away from crowded, polluted and noisy downtowns.  People were happy to move away and build their American dream homes. However, the growth of suburbs eventually contributed to the deterioration of many American cities, the obesity epidemic, even greater environmental pollution and tremendous access problems related to public transportation.  Again, a very beautiful policy that ended up backfiring."

As Noyes notes, there are many aspects to consider when it comes to taking an idea from inception to implementation in regards to health policy and often times, there are factors that can impede that progress.

"Most people evaluate health policies emotionally when they really need to look at the outcomes. Sometimes the evidence is there, but things like politics, religion and other factors get in the way and you don't implement the most effective policy but rather the most culturally appropriate policy."

Collaboration is Key

After spending nearly twenty years at a small, private college, Katia says one of the things that attracted her to UB was the culture of open cross-disciplinary collaboration and the opportunity to develop new partnerships between the School of Public Health and other UB schools and community organizations dedicated to healthy living and population health.

"I think my greatest achievement to date is that I have contributed to creating a much more open and collaborative relationship between the medical campus and UB's South Campus. A constant dialogue between the two schools is very important because building this communication and changing the culture around how research is conducted will allow us to move toward better care for a wider population of patients who historically may have had no access to appropriate high quality care."