Article Title

Transforming Public Health Systems: Using Data to Drive Organizational Capacity for Quality Improvement and Efficiency


Introduction: This paper examines the organization, services, and priorities of public health agencies and their capacity to be learning public health systems (LPHS). An LPHS uses data to measure population health and health risks and to evaluate its services and programs, and then integrates its own research with advances in scientific knowledge to innovate and improve its efficiency and effectiveness.

Public Health Agencies and Impact for LPHS: Public health agencies’ (PHA) organizational characteristics vary across states, as does their funding per capita. Variations in organization, services provided, and expenditures per capita may reflect variations in community needs or may be associated with unmet needs. The status of legal statutes defining responsibilities and authorities and their relationships to other public and private agencies also vary. Little information is available on the efficiency and effectiveness of state and local PHAs, in part due to a lack of information infrastructure to capture uniform data on services provided. There are almost no data on the relationship of quality of services, staff performance, and resources to population health outcomes. By building a capacity to collect and analyze data on population health within and across communities, and by becoming a continuous learning PHA, the allocation of resources can more closely match population health needs and improve health outcomes. Accreditation of every PHA is an important first step toward becoming a learning PHA.

Conclusions: Public Health Services and Systems Research (PHSSR) is beginning to shed light on some of these issues, particularly by investigating variation across PHAs. As this emerging discipline grows, there is a need to enhance the collection and use of data in support of building organized, effective, and efficient LPHSs with the PHA capacity to continually improve the public’s health.