RWJF Public Health Services and Systems Research Series

Public health departments have always been on the frontlines of keeping people safe and healthy. But given budget realities at the national, state and local level, how can they most effectively and efficiently protect, promote and improve the public’s health?

Public Health Services and Systems Research (PHSSR) is establishing an evidence base to provide public health officials and policy-makers with the data they need to make well-informed decisions about how health departments should be financed, staffed and structured. PHSSR findings can help public health departments use their limited resources wisely, and can inform critical real-world changes in public health practice that will affect how well prepared communities are to respond to bioterrorism, pandemic flu and current chronic disease epidemics.

Currently, RWJF and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)–working closely with the RWJF-supported National Coordinating Center for PHSSR at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health–are partnering to develop a national PHSSR agenda that will ultimately support and inform research and funding opportunities for the broader public health field. This partnership builds on investments of nearly $60 million by the Foundation since 2003 to help establish the field of PHSSR, which has already begun to generate important discoveries about how we can strengthen America’s public health system and inform decisions that can lead to improved health outcomes in communities.

As part of this funding, in 2009 RWJF supported AcademyHealth in conducting a Public Health Systems Research (PHSR) Data and Methods Needs Assessment which included a review of PHSSR literature, an online survey of the AcademyHealth PHSR Interest Group and semi-structured interviews with PHSSR experts.

The literature review–which has informed the Foundation’s work with the CDC to establish a PHSSR research agenda–examined commentary, research articles, practice articles and books with a strong methodological focus. This research has now been curated and is presented here as part of the RWJF Public Health Services and Systems Research Series. The Series literature has been categorized to align with the focus areas of the current agenda-setting work:

1. Workforce
2. Organization and Structure
3. Finance
4. Technology, Data and Methods

It is the intent of the Foundation that others use this research to further the field of PHSSR and to promote best practices. As new research makes its way into peer-reviewed journals, it will become part of this Series.