Best Strategies Evaluated for Building Ties Between Public Health Schools and Public Health Departments

Analysis and synthesis of 22 proposals on bridging the gap between academic public health and practice

In 2004, journalist Christopher Conte analyzed thematic elements of 22 proposals submitted to the Washington-based Association of Schools of Public Health requesting federal funding to establish "academic health departments" (formal affiliations of schools of public health with state or local health department).

The purpose of the project was to depict state-of-the-art approaches to forming academic health departments.

Key Results

  • In the unpublished article, "Academic Health Departments: From Theory to Practice," Conte sets forth the following findings and common themes:

    • The studied proposals embodied a variety of strategies for building closer ties between academia and practicing health departments.
    • Almost all applicants asserted that a balance of power between academia and state or local health departments is crucial to the formation of academic health departments.
    • Many proposals stressed the need to address cultural differences between academia and practicing health departments.
    • Applicants agreed that academic health departments must be problem driven, not theory driven.
    • Virtually all proposals emphasized the role of strong leadership, and many added the cultivation of boundary-spanners farther down the chain of command, as agents of change.
    • Proposals sought to encourage a wide range of interactions and networking among partnering organizations.
    • A number of proposals argued for tangible incentives to encourage faculty and health department practitioners to collaborate.