Public Health Spending Patterns and More: A Q&A with Glen Mays

Jun 17, 2011, 3:55 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

Glen Mays, M.P.H., Ph.D, Professor and Chair and director of research for the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, is a key researcher in the field of Public Health Services and Systems Research. Dr. Mays presented new findings both during the Annual Research Meeting and at the Public Health Services Research Interest Group meeting that followed the larger meeting. NewPublicHealth spoke with Dr. Mays about the presentations.

NPH: What were your key presentations at the Annual Research Meeting?

Glen Mays: Two presentations I’ve made here at the meeting I think get at some critical issues in terms of better understanding the contribution of Public Health Services and Systems Research (PHSSR) to overall health. One is a follow-up to some work we’ve been doing looking at public health spending patterns. Our most recent analysis looked at the effects of investments in public health on medical care spending to find out whether enhanced investments in public health can help to bend the medical care cost curve and help to alleviate some of the challenges that we have with affordability of medical care.

NPH: Talk a little bit about the tenth anniversary. You’ve seen the field grow--what practical applications are you seeing from the decade of research into PHSSR?

Mays: Well, I think we are really seeing a convergence now between the resources being produced in the research community and the demand and information needs of practitioners and policy makers to actually use that research. We are now seeing opportunities for using research and evidence to help inform practice and policy decisions. A good example is the current economic climate which is forcing some difficult choices--both in the policy level and the practice level --about what kinds of services to deliver and how to operate more efficiently.

NPH: What was your focus at the Interest Group meeting?

Mays: I spoke about our practice-based research networks--and looking at those networks as a mechanism for taking research findings and moving them into practice. So we’re studying the research process and our findings suggest that these networks, that bring together researchers, scientists, and practitioners, are actually helping to speed up that flow of information from research into decision-making in public health. We did a study with our initial cohort of five networks and looked at the membership of those networks. We surveyed over two hundred organizations that are part of those networks and looked at their engagement in the research process and their utilization of information that flows out of the research projects.

NPH: What is the best PHSSR question that anyone has asked you at this meeting?

Mays: I think one of the best questions that I’ve heard relates to how we define the public health delivery system and what are the attributes that make a system function as a coordinated system that address population health issues? That’s a question that we’ve danced around conceptually for a long time and we’re starting to think about how to better define and act on--and ultimately, improve the system aspects of public health.

For more, read a guest post by Glen Mays on Economic Shocks and Public Health Decision-making: How Can Research Help?

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

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