New Public Health Services and Systems Research Agenda

Directions for the Next Decade

A new agenda to guide Public Health Services and Systems Research (PHSSR) has been developed through a process involving many stakeholders. This agenda is designed to guide public health practice and policy but also to adapt to future public health dynamics.

PHSSR is a field of study that “examines the organization, financing, and delivery of public health services within communities, and the impact of these services on public health.” PHSSR can encompass study of both public and private entities; public health “services” can include programs, direct services, policies, laws, and regulations. Although the field has been around since 1920, PHSSR significantly evolved during the 1990s, a time of “ferment” in public health.

Key Points:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Public Health Foundation developed the first PHSSR research agenda after a 2003 IOM report noted the need for such an agenda to provide focus, “encourage and direct” researchers and funding, and develop an intellectual base for the field.
  • Development of PHSSR accelerated when the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) became involved in 2004.
  • Given new demands on—and new funding of—PHSSR arising from numerous sources, including health care reform, RWJF felt there was now a need to develop a new “current and more focused” research agenda.
  • The agenda focuses on the four general areas of workforce, financing, data and methods, and organization and structure.
  • An extensive array of researchers, practitioners, policy-makers and other stakeholders first developed a draft list of priority research topics in each of the four general areas; this list then underwent a six-month long vetting process of dissemination and review.

The resulting agenda is designed to guide research to provide critical, timely information but the authors note the agenda cannot be regarded as a “static document.” It must be dynamic and responsive to changing demands in public health, as well as to drivers such as new technologies, the economy and other forces not yet seen.

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