Public Health Services and Systems Research (PHSSR) at AcademyHealth: An Opportunity to Inform Policy and Future Investments in Practice-Based Public Health Research

This blog highlights the need for PHSSR at AcademyHealth’s Annual Research Meeting as well as future investment in practice-based public health research.

The JPHMP Direct audience is likely familiar with the field of Public Health Services and Systems Research (PHSSR) and its evolution. The Journal of Public Health Management and Practice has provided a supportive home for PHSSR. However, this blog intends to highlight the importance of disseminating PHSSR evidence at national meetings and to a broader stakeholder audience.      

As a distinct area of research, we have come a long way since the formative concepts of PHSSR were discussed in the 2003 Journal of Public Health Management and Practice article by Mays, Halverson, and Scutchfield. Despite the important PHSSR evidence generated over the last two decades, their opening sentence rings even more true – “The need to improve the nation’s public health systems has perhaps never been more visible and widely recognized than it is today.” The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the value of PHSSR and the important work that remains.

Similar to the methods and approach of Health Services Research, PHSSR investigates the linkages between public health services and system inputs and population health outcomes. Insights from PHSSR are needed to inform changes to the public health system, to improve health equity, and to influence critical public health issues.

It has been seven years since the last national conference was held focusing specifically on PHSSR. Since that final Keeneland Conference in 2015, public health researchers have continued to share PHSSR evidence at other meetings including AcademyHealth’s Annual Research Meeting (ARM) and the American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting, among others. The AcademyHealth Interest Group for PHSSR historically provided an opportunity to highlight the latest in public health-focused research; however, the interest group meeting gradually scaled back from a full day to an hour and thirty-minute ARM session. Historically, the Keeneland Conference and the half-day PHSSR IG were both funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), an early supporter of PHSSR. Since RWJF PHSSR-specific funding ended prior to the pandemic, it has become even more important to ensure that PHSSR evidence is shared at national meetings that influence policy, particularly policy regarding research funding and agendas. 

AcademyHealth’s ARM is just that. It is the premier meeting for Health Services Research where health research is expected to inform action. The ARM gathers thousands of changemakers focused on health, health care, and policy. The COVID-19 pandemic reminded anyone who was not already aware that the public health system is a crucial part of the broader health system. Ensuring that PHSSR is part of the ARM is our job as PHSSR-focused scientists. It is also one more way to remind national leaders of the need to fund PHSSR.

In addition to submitting abstracts to the PHSSR IG, we also need to submit PHSSR to themes in the main ARM meeting. So many of the ARM’s themes overlap with the important work of PHSSR. Since the deadline to submit abstracts to the ARM is fast approaching (January 12th, 2023), we highlight ways (below) to widely share new evidence from PHSSR.

For individuals interested in submitting PHSSR abstracts, please note that abstracts submitted to the main meeting themes can also be submitted to the IG. Researchers can also prepare PHSSR-related panel submissions for themes in the ARM. These include up to 4 abstracts submitted collectively with a brief summary about the panel. Abstracts submitted as a part of a panel can also be submitted as individual abstract submissions. If accepted as a panel, the individual abstract will be automatically withdrawn from the pool. AcademyHealth coordinates this process for the ARM, ensuring that no abstract is presented more than once.

Abstracts for the PHSSR IG are submitted directly to the committee here and are due February 15th, 2023. PHSSR IG topics of interest include:

  • Building public health system resilience, especially in relation to preparedness for, response to, and recovery from public health emergencies like COVID-19 and natural disasters
  • Evaluating local, state, or federal policies to improve public health services and the public health system, and how they relate to the social determinants of health, population health outcomes across the life course, and/or health equity
  • Emerging threats to population health, such as opioid misuse, infectious disease, and chronic disease, and their impact on public health services and the public health system
  • Issues related to public health resources and other financial/economic issues, including their politization, prioritization, and management
  • Public health system-wide integration and/or cross-sector collaborations and their respective impacts on population health outcomes
  • Public health infrastructure including workforce capacity and data systems
  • Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods approaches for PHSSR research such as measuring public health system-wide integration, cross-sector collaborations, resource allocation, workforce development, public health informatics, other public health services.

Lastly, while submitting PHSSR to AcademyHealth is an important step toward highlighting the evidence necessary for improvements in public health, another important opportunity exists. PHSSR scientists can also add their perspectives by volunteering for leadership roles on ARM theme committees and by signing up to review abstracts for the themes.

The PHSSR IG session conducted at the ARM provides an important platform to disseminate findings of relevance to modernizing our public health system. It also provides a key opportunity for like-minded public health practitioners and researchers to share ideas, gather valuable feedback, and find a common platform to network. Lastly, we can further expand the reach of PHSSR by encouraging students and early career scientists to submit abstracts to and to join us in attending the PHSSR IG session at the ARM.

Valerie Yeager is a Professor at the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health in Indianapolis. As a researcher focused on public health services and systems (PHSSR), Dr. Yeager studies the recruitment and retention of the public health workforce and organizational strategies for system improvement.

Betty Bekemeier is a Professor at University of Washington (UW) School of Nursing and Director of the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice at UW School of Public Health. She is a public health systems and practice-based researcher, focusing on the programs, practices, and finances of local health departments.

Anushree Vichare is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. As a workforce researcher at the Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity, she has keen interest in improving the recruitment, retention and the diversity of the public health workforce.

Sign up for our newsletter!

To receive news and information about the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice and JPHMP Direct.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.