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Am J Prev Med. 2012 May;42(5 Suppl 1):S72-8. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2012.01.026.

A national research agenda for public health services and systems.


The field of public health services and systems research (PHSSR) has emerged over the past decade to produce the evidence needed to address critical uncertainties about how best to organize, finance, and deliver effective public health strategies to all Americans. To advance these efforts, a national PHSSR research agenda-setting process was used to identify a broad inventory of information needs and uncertainties that public health stakeholders face in the domains of public health workforce, public health system structure and performance, public health financing, and public health information and technology. This paper presents the results of an expert review process used to transform the identified information needs into a concise set of research questions that can be pursued through new scientific inquiry in PHSSR. Established research frameworks were used to specify the contexts, mechanisms of action, and outcomes within the public health system that require further study. A total of 72 research questions were developed from the 113 original items in the PHSSR inventory of information needs. The questions include both persistent problems and newly emerging needs in public health practice and policy. The resulting research agenda provides a starting point for mobilizing the public health scientific enterprise around contemporary, high-priority uncertainties identified by broad cross sections of public health stakeholders. Regular updates to this agenda will be required to achieve continuous improvements in both the science and practice of public health.

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