BACKGROUND: Research on how best to deliver efficacious public health strategies in heterogeneous community and organizational contexts remains limited. Such studies require the active engagement of public health practice settings in the design, implementation, and translation of research. Practice-based research networks (PBRNs) provide mechanisms for research engagement, but until now they have not been tested in public health settings.

PURPOSE: This study uses data from participants in 14 public health PBRNs and a national comparison group of public health agencies to study processes influencing the engagement of public health settings in research implementation and translation activities.

METHODS: A cross-sectional network analysis survey was fielded with participants in public health PBRNs approximately 1 year after network formation (n=357) and with a nationally representative comparison group of U.S. local health departments not participating in PBRNs (n=625). Hierarchic regression models were used to estimate how organizational attributes and PBRN network structures influence engagement in research implementation and translation activities. Data were collected in 2010-2012 and analyzed in 2012.

RESULTS: Among PBRN participants, both researchers and practice agencies reported high levels of engagement in research activities. Local public health agencies participating in PBRNs were two to three times more likely than nonparticipating agencies to engage in research implementation and translation activities (p < 0.05). Participants in less densely connected PBRN networks and in more peripheral locations within these networks reported higher levels of research engagement, greater perceived benefits from engagement, and greater likelihood of continued participation.

CONCLUSIONS: PBRN networks can serve as effective mechanisms for facilitating research implementation and translation among public health practice settings.

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Notes/Citation Information

Published in American Journal of Preventive Medicine, v. 45, issue 6, p. 752-762.

© 2013 American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The copyright holder has granted the permission for posting the article here.

The document available for download is the authors' post-peer-review final draft of the article.

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Funding Information

This research was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Grant #64676). Glen Mays also was supported through a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health (Award UL1TR000117). Anna Hoover also was supported through the through the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Superfund Research Program (Award P42 ES007380).