Accelerating the Production and Application of Evidence for Public Health System Improvement

In the U.S. today, preventable injuries and disease make up more than 75 percent of the $2.6 trillion in annual health care costs. The charge of the U.S. public health system is to create the conditions that can improve the health of Americans on a population-wide basis. By decreasing the health risk and disease prevalence rates in our communities, the U.S. public health system has the potential to “bend the cost curve,” while simultaneously improving population health.

The field of public health services and systems research (PHSSR) has emerged to address these two interrelated challenges. PHSSR produces evidence to improve the capacity, organization, financing and delivery of services in the public health system.

Frontiers in Public Health Services and Systems Research is a new, open-access peer reviewed journal, meant to rapidly spread and share evidence from PHSSR studies. Frontiers will publish results with seven overarching principles in mind:

  1. Innovation: Frontiers aims to share early findings and preliminary results.
  2. Timeliness: Due to the nature of the findings, Frontiers is able to turn around study results quickly for rapid dissemination and real-world applications.
  3. Quality: Frontiers plans to engage the PHSSR community in a rigorous peer review process to ensure scientifically sound, reliable and credible research.
  4. Multidisciplinary: The intersection of health care financing and public health will necessarily be multidisciplinary. Frontiers seeks to apply quality improvement (QI) methods to topics in PHSSR.
  5. Accessibility: Frontiers’ unrestricted, open-access, web-based publication platform does not require a fee to access content.
  6. Brevity: Studies in Frontiers aim to provide key findings and their implications in a succinct manner.
  7. Utility: Manuscripts are designed to provide concrete prescriptions for PHSSR practice, policy, and scientific inquiry.

The inaugural issue of Frontiers features the following three articles, which discuss the negative effects of variation in public health delivery: 1) Bekemeier et al. study differences in the delivery of maternal and child nutrition assistance services (WIC) across local health departments; 2) Hays and colleagues categorize and classify the organizational structures of local health departments; and 3) Merrill et al. examine the relationships and interactions among local health department leaders across the U.S.

Each research article appearing in Frontiers is accompanied by an independently-developed editorial note that highlights the implications of the research for public health practice and/or health policy.