Advancing the Field of Public Health Finance

Developing a public health financial database system to provide information for research, practice and education

Field of Work: Public health finance

Problem Synopsis: Finance concepts have not been adequately applied to the field of public health, causing a lag of nearly 100 years behind system partners such as schools and police.

Synopsis of the Work: The researchers trained public health practitioners in the basics of financial management. They also examined: (1) the impact of dedicated public health taxes on population health in the eight states of the Mississippi Delta Region; (2) the use of decision analysis to identify funding priorities of a public health department; (3) options for funding allocations in local public health practices in Georgia; (4) organizational networks of state offices of minority health and their impact on health disparities.

Key Findings and Results: The research team held 16 workshops to train more than 1,000 public health professionals on the use of standard financial management tools. As a result, two states (Florida and Ohio) conducted pilot studies using standard financial management tools to examine operational strengths and weaknesses of local health departments and take corrective action.

The use of decision analysis software resulted in effective consensus building around the values used in the budgeting process, along with a growth in understanding across the agency and within its governing Board of Health, about the selection and relationship of goals, measures and values. As reported in their 2010 article in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, a result of using decision analysis software, the Spokane (Wash.) Regional Health District instituted changes that brought its service delivery models into closer alignment with its strategic plan.

The research team reported in a June 2011 article in BMC Public Health that levying a property tax dedicated to public health for counties with per capita income above $28,000 is associated with improved health outcomes of those counties when compared to counties without a dedicated property tax for public health. Alternatively, levying property tax dedicated to public health in counties with low per capita income is associated with poor health outcomes, possibly because poor health status is exacerbated by levels of taxation on people with low incomes.

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