Friday, November 11, 2011
Guest Commentary: Translating Public Health Systems Research into Practice
Tamar Klaiman, PhD, MPH
Jefferson School of Population Health
As part of the On Saturday, October 29, I attended a Public Health Systems and Services Research (PHSSR) lunch n’ learn in Washington, DC, an affiliate meeting of the American Public Health Association’s Annual meeting. The lunch n’ learn focused on translating research into practice.
The field of PHSSR seeks “to explore the impact of specific public health strategies on the quality and performance of the United States public health system.” PHSSR is distinct from -- but related to -- the established field of Health Services Research (HSR), which has traditionally focused on the delivery of medical services.
Those of us who are trained researchers talk a lot about translating our research into practice; however, for most scientists it takes over 15 years for our work to be used practically. This session gave specific examples of how PHSSR is impacting the work public health agencies conduct across the country. One example was the use of social networking analysis, which can help us better understand how organizations work and pinpoint areas for improvement. The results of social network analysis include depictions of how different departments communicate and cooperate. This work allows managers to see where problems lie in their departments and address them. Data collected before and after a social network analysis show that the analysis leads to measurable improvements in health department activities.
It is helpful for me to attend similar sessions periodically to remind me not only how important research is to practice, but to find inspiration in what others are doing. I am hopeful for the future of PHSSR and its impact on public health practice!