A Needs Assessment for Data and Methods in Public Health Systems Research

There is widespread agreement that Public Health Systems Research (PHSR) must define itself more clearly as a field, become more scientific and increase training.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded the AcademyHealth Public Health Systems Research (PHSR) Data and Methods Needs Assessment to promote more rigorous PHSR. Conducted in 2009, the assessment included a review of PHSR literature, an online survey of the AcademyHealth PHSR Interest Group (PHSR IG) and semi-structured interviews with PHSR experts.

The literature review examined commentary, research articles, practice articles and books with a strong methodological focus. Questions in the PHSR IG survey asked interest group members to identify core competencies in public health research. AcademyHealth staff interviewed key PHSR stakeholders regarding policy and practice, current methods, and data, training and communication between researchers and policy-makers.

Key Findings:

  • Methodologies used in PHSR include focus groups, longitudinal studies, data synthesis and mathematical models.
  • Few organizations hire personnel specifically to conduct PHSR.

PHSR is a relatively new field of research. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded the first assessment of PHSR data and methods. The assessment included a literature review, survey and interviews with PHSR practitioners.