New Research on Public Health Systems and Services: Recommended Reading

Dec 21, 2012, 1:00 PM

The new issue of Frontiers in Public Health Services and Systems Research (PHSSR), an online journal that looks at early research on issues related to public health services and delivery, focuses on quality improvement in practice-based research networks.

This issue’s commentary, from the journal’s editor, Glen Mays, PhD, MPH, is about a series of studies sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that  look at how public health decision-makers are responding to accreditation, quality improvement, and public reporting initiatives during  ongoing fiscal problems. Mays is co-principal Investigator of the National Coordinating Center on PHSSR, Director of the Public Health Practice-Based Research Networks and the F. Douglas Scutchfield Endowed Professor at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health. Mays says that, overall, the current evidence shows that “these initiatives represent promising strategies for strengthening evidence-based decision-making and expanding the delivery of evidence-tested programs and policies in local public health settings.” 

Mays  adds that continued comparative research and evaluation activities are needed to provide more definitive evidence about which combination of strategies work best, for which population groups, in which community and organizational settings, and why.

And with the 2013 County Health Rankings expected to be announced in the first quarter of the new year, Frontier’s article on use of the Rankings by local health departments  in Florida is important reading. The researchers surveyed health department leaders to describe if, how and to what extent the Rankings were used by Florida’s 67 local health departments to improve the health of their communities and describe changes in use from the 2010 to the 2011 release. The authors say the results show substantial use of the Rankings by Florida’s health departments, especially for community health assessments, staff education, as a starting point for examining other indicators and databases and in grant applications. The researchers add that the Rankings also appear to be an important tool for community organizing around public health issues and communicating the many factors that affect health, such as education and income.

>>Bonus Link: Read a NewPublic Health post about the second round of grant winners for the  Roadmaps to Health Community Grants. The grants support two-year state and local collaborative efforts among policymakers, business, education, health care, public health and community organizations, and build on the model of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program.

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