A Research Agenda for an Evolving Public Health System: Directions for the Field of Public Health Services and Systems Research

An effective, high-performing public health system requires current, relevant, and reliable research to inform public health practice strategies. The need for funding and support to strengthen the evidence-base to guide and evaluate system improvements remains imperative, creating inspiration for an updated research agenda for the field of public health services and systems research (PHSSR).

AcademyHealth in collaboration with the American Public Health Association (APHA), with funding from Kaiser Permanente, developed a renewed research agenda for the evidence needed to inform and improve public health programs, systems, and services in the next decade. Based on the input of leading experts from health care systems, academia, philanthropy, government agencies, and community-based organizations, the report outlines PHSSR priorities in the following seven domains:

  1. Health Equity
  2. Cross-Sector Partnerships and Engagement
  3. Data and Information Technology
  4. Financing and Resources
  5. Workforce
  6. Law and Governance
  7. Communication and Narrative

Each domain features 10-13 prioritized research questions, generated through an online prioritization activity. Questions were further informed by an advisory group alongside listening sessions held with federal agencies and the AcademyHealth PHSSR Interest Group. The prioritized questions underscore measuring and achieving progress for health equity; barriers to data modernization; and issues related to enumerating, hiring, and retaining the public health workforce.

The renewed agenda acknowledges that it will face barriers that previous agendas also faced in seeking funding, however, opportunities for adoption are outlined such as the Public Health Infrastructure Saves Lives Act and the public health workforce loan repayment program. Advocacy remains a priority for a sustainable public health infrastructure, including sustainable funding to support this research agenda.

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Sarah Weinberg

Research Associate - AcademyHealth

Sarah Weinberg is a Research Associate at AcademyHealth, where she supports the Clinical Decision Support Inno... Read Bio

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Aiyah Adam

Research Assistant - AcademyHealth

Aiyah Adam is a Research Assistant at AcademyHealth, where she supports the Evidence-Informed State Health Pol... Read Bio


Elizabeth Cope, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Vice President, Health Systems Improvement - AcademyHealth

Elizabeth L. Cope, PhD, MPH, is Vice President of Health Systems Improvement at AcademyHealth where she overse... Read Bio