Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health has been awarded a $223,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to conduct a series of initiatives to enhance the development of public health systems research -- a field of study that examines the organization, financing, and delivery of public health services within communities, as well as the impact of the services within communities and on public health.
The 19-month project is designed to engage public health practitioners, administrators, academics, and policy makers and to increase the dissemination of information on key public health systems research issues, such as public health financing. The evidence from studies within this field of research is often needed by the stakeholders to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of public health systems at local, state, and national levels.
There's much to be learned from public health systems research, says one of the project's directors, Iris, E. Smith, PhD, MPH, clinical associate professor of behavioral science and health education, Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health. Dr. Smith is also the project's principal investigator.
"A community's public health is more than just the local health department or the hospital," says Dr. Smith. "System-level research allows decision makers and stakeholders to look broadly at how a community's public and private institutions impact the health status of individuals living in that community."
Project Co-Director Peggy A. Honore, DHA, MHA, chief science officer of the Mississippi Department of Health adds: "Public health systems research provides valuable information about services and programs needed in specific communities. It also assists key public health decision makers in allocating resources.
Evidence to inform, educate, and advance the organization, financing, and delivery of public health services is exceptionally scarce. Standards to guide policymakers with resource allocation decisions or to assess the financial status of the nation's public health system do not exist. Such accountability gaps exist because a field of study dedicated to research, analysis, and management of the public health system has never been adequately developed.
The project is a multi-institution collaboration and will focus on conducting events such as an invitational conference and meetings for structured dialogue on public health systems research topics. It will also assist with the publication of a special finance and economics issue of the Journal of Public Health Finance and Practice, and develop a website hosted by Emory University (http://www.sph.emory.edu/PHSR) for the distribution of public health systems research information and resources. Additionally, the project will implement a speakers' bureau for presentations on public health systems research topics at national events.
A committee of public health leaders, including Emory health policy professor Ken Thorpe, PhD, was solicited to serve in an advisory capacity to the project directors. Dr. Thorpe is a professor and chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management, Rollins School of Public Health.
"It's an important new program because as research is increasingly indicating, population risk factors like eating and exercise habits are a primary issue responsible for the rise in health care spending," Dr. Thorpe says.
Other project directors include: Glen P. Mays, Associate Professor, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and Lloyd, F. Novick, Editor, Journal of Public Health Management and Practice and Commissioner of Health of Onondaga County, New York.