In spring 2014, AcademyHealth convened expert researchers and thought leaders from the disciplines of public health, health care, and health information technology to discuss a critical issue –what opportunities do new and existing sources of data bring to the research community as it continues to inform health system transformation?

This meeting was part of AcademyHealth’s Public Health Services and Systems Research (PHSSR) program, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. To focus the discussion, AcademyHealth commissioned three papers on the thematic topics outlined in PHSSR’s national research agenda: health information technology, organization and structure, and financing. Meeting participants provided constructive feedback on the papers, and then engaged in further dialogue around these issue areas. Specifically, attendees identified priority research questions for the field of PHSSR; suggested what types of data and what elements of data are needed to answer those priority questions; proposed data resources that are so far untapped; provided strategies for cultivating new PHSSR data; and finally, debated how analytic approaches and methods could be refined, enhanced or adapted to take full advantage of all data resources for the field.

Better Leveraging Data Resources

The resulting list of research questions and topics for further exploration is below. We know that we have just begun to scratch the surface of these important questions. To continue the momentum, and keep pushing the field forward, we want your expert input. What do you think should be PHSSR’s priorities? And what data (both existing and untapped resources) are needed to answer these questions?

We are looking to learn from your experiences and expertise as we continue to define the ways in which we can move PHSSR forward! Please add your thoughts and/or suggestions in the comments section below this post.

PHSSR Research Questions:


  • What is the business case for consolidating local health departments or sharing services across health departments?


  • What is the capacity of local health departments to carry out basic financial management/ accounting? How does capacity affect agency performance?

HIT and Informatics Systems

  • What system approaches optimize public health community readiness and opportunism to effectively harness increased information flows to improve population health?
  • What technology components (e.g., sharable platforms, flexible standards or identity management tools) leverage the current information explosion, and how, to transform the current healthcare system?
  • How can the PHSSR informatics workforce be trained and maintained?
    • What deliverables are informatics staffs producing? How are the deliverables accounted for? What is the business case for moving dollars into informatics?

  • What is the minimum set of necessary data that comes out of electronic health records (EHRs)? Who defines this set? Who cleans the set? What should be done with it?
  • What are examples of successes and failures in obtaining public health information from EHRs?
  • What is the regulatory environment needed to facilitate data exchange?

Visit our website to learn more about PHSSR at AcademyHealth, and complete this form to join our Interest Group.

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