The Value of Public Health Services and Systems Research

Systems-based thinking and interventions have successfully been applied to the public health system for two decades. These Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authors describe some of those efforts, including:

  • Development by the CDC of the National Public Health Performance Standards Program, a precursor to national accreditation of public health agencies and the first (2006) public health services and systems research (PHSSR) agenda.
  • Application by the Department of Health and Human Services of a systems research approach to health literacy issues and mapping state child health.
  • Eradication of smallpox through introduction of a systems approach in West Africa and through other developments.
  • Development of the current PHSSR research agenda by CDC in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the University of Kentucky and others.

Going forward, the CDC has identified priority areas, “winnable battles,” where progress can be seen within four years: health care-associated infections; HIV; motor vehicle injuries; obesity, nutrition and food safety; teen and unintended pregnancy; and tobacco.

They conclude that applying a services and systems research approach “will provide public health practitioners at all levels with new insights and strategies needed to implement change successfully and meet the increasing demands for an integrated and improved health system.”