AcademyHealth: A Q&A with Paul Erwin and Bridget Booske

Jun 15, 2011, 6:58 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

Public Health Systems Research is the discipline that examines the organization, financing, and delivery of public health services and the impact of those activities on population health. The AcademyHealth PHSR Interest Group, which has grown to over 2,000 members, marked its tenth anniversary this week with a series of panel discussions about the field. NewPublicHealth spoke with two key presenters: Paul Erwin, M.D., co-principal investigator of the National Coordinating Center for PHSSR at the University of Kentucky; and Bridget Booske, senior scientist at University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institutes and deputy director of the County Health Rankings.

NewPublicHealth: What did your presentation highlight?

Paul Erwin: I’m talking about health coalitions and in particular, examining health coalitions from the perspective of their being the organizing corollary for a local public health system. That’s important because health and health outcomes are the result of a number of different complex factors and if we want resolve these major problems, they can’t be solved by one entity alone. It’s all of the organizations, and individuals and entities that impact the health of the public at the community level.

NPH: And what is your current focus at the National Coordinating Center for PHSSR Research?

Paul Erwn: I’m working on providing a practical perspective on research, on the translation of research. In the last few months, we’ve gathered a working group together of people who have experience in the practice and academic worlds to answer questions such as who is successfully translating research into practice, how is it being done, what are the barriers, best practices and models for how we can support the practice world in this key area.

Taking this focus has importance in several key areas such as public health accreditation [which will launch in the fall of 2011.] One of the standards for accreditationhas to do with advancing new knowledge. The work we’re doing now at the Center has implications regarding improving the practice world’s capacity to deliver on this particular standard.

NPH: Bridget, what research did you present to the Interest Group?

Bridget Booske: The work is on media response to the release of the County Health Rankings in 2010, which is very important in terms of trying to engage broad segments of the community. The media is a key resource for reaching other stakeholders. We learned that we got very broad coverage in the better resourced communities, so we have to get more media coverage in less resourced communities. It’s harder to reach small media, but we need to keep working at it.

NPH: In what ways is the media coverage of the County Health Rankings important?

Bridget Booske: We want the media to continue to help us with the initial coverage, of the County Health Rankings, but we also have found that follow-up stories and letters to the editor to continually get the message out will only helps us improve the health of the community.

And it’s not just about getting the governmental public health folks, to write those letters and op-eds; we’ve had pretty attention grabbing op-eds from other key players such as hospital CEOs and head of local chambers of commerce. That’s great. We want to get other voices in there as well.

NPH: What input are you looking forward to from research colleagues at the PHSR Interest Group meeting?

Bridget Booske: I’m looking forward to getting input from other researchers in terms of how we really assess what we’re doing with the County Health Rankings. We have a logic model that says we’re trying to get attention from the media and have people use the information toward broad community attention and then to in turn implement evidence-based policies. We know we can get the media and we need researchers to help us with the rest of the logic model and ultimately to help improve what we do.

Read previous Q&As with newsmakers and difference makers in public health.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.