A National Research Agenda for Public Health Services and Systems

The field of public health services and systems research (PHSSR) seeks to produce the evidence needed by public health stakeholders to improve the nation’s public health system. A national research agenda-setting process that took place in 2001 engaged professionals at federal, state and local levels; researchers; educators; policy analysts; and representatives from public health funding agencies and professional associations. They identified 113 information needs in four public health domains:

  1. Public health workforce
  2. Public health financing and economics
  3. Public health structure and performance
  4. Public health information and technology

More recently, an expert review process was used to transform the information needs into 72 research questions that can be pursued through new scientific inquiry. Some of the questions were similar to ones previously described; indicating evidence gaps still exist in some areas. New questions—and research opportunities—were identified around quality improvement initiatives; health disparities and social determinants of health; and health information and communication technologies.

“The national PHSSR research agenda should function as a work in progress subject to continual review, revision, and monitoring,” these authors write, helping “to accelerate the nation’s movement toward a more effective, efficient, and equitable health system.