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Am J Public Health. 2001 April; 91(4): 611–617.
PMCID: PMC1446649

Privatization and the scope of public health: a national survey of local health department directors.


OBJECTIVES: This study sought to obtain and analyze nationally representative data on (1) privatization of local health department services, (2) local health department directors' beliefs and perspectives on the desirable role and focus of health departments, and (3) the influence of these views on privatization practices. METHODS: A stratified representative national sample of 380 local health department directors was drawn, and 347 directors were interviewed by telephone. Logistic regression established the independent effects of various factors on decisions to privatize. RESULTS: Almost three quarters (73%) of the local health departments privatized public health services of some type. The 12% of the directors who believed that local health departments should be restricted to the core public health functions and move entirely out of direct provision of personal health care were more likely to privatize services. The 77% of the directors who believed that local health departments should be involved in an increasing array of social problems were more likely to privatize. CONCLUSIONS: Privatization has quietly and quickly become commonplace in public health, and privatization practices are intimately related to divergent conceptions of public health and the role of local health departments.

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Selected References

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