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Evidence-Based Public Health Practice Among Program Managers in Local Public Health Departments

Erwin, Paul Campbell MD, DrPH; Harris, Jenine K. PhD; Smith, Carson MPA; Leep, Carolyn J. MS, MPH; Duggan, Kathleen MPH, MS, RD; Brownson, Ross C. PhD

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: September/October 2014 - Volume 20 - Issue 5 - p 472–480
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000027
Original Articles

Objectives: We assessed the use of administrative-evidence based practices (A-EBPs) among managers of programs in chronic diseases, environmental health, and infectious diseases from a sample of local health departments (LHDs) in the United States.

Design: Program managers completed a survey consisting of 6 sections (biographical data, use of A-EBPs, diffusion attributes, use of resources, and barriers to, and competencies in, evidence-based public health), with a total of 66 questions.

Participants: The survey was sent electronically to 168 program managers in chronic diseases, 179 in environmental health, and 175 in infectious diseases, representing 228 LHDs. The survey had previously been completed by 517 LHD directors.

Measures: The use of A-EBPs was scored for 19 individual A-EBPs, across the 5 A-EBP domains, and for all domains combined. Individual characteristics were derived from the survey responses, with additional data on LHDs drawn from linked National Association of County & City Health Officials Profile survey data. Results for program managers were compared across the 3 types of programs and to responses from the previous survey of LHD directors. The scores were ordered and categorized into tertiles. Unconditional logistic regression models were used to calculate odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals, comparing individual and agency characteristics for those with the highest third of A-EBPs scores with those with the lowest third.

Results: The 332 total responses from program managers represented 196 individual LHDs. Program managers differed (across the 3 programs, and compared with LHD directors) in demographic characteristics, education, and experience. The use of A-EBPs varied widely across specific practices and individuals, but the pattern of responses from directors and program managers was very similar for the majority of A-EBPs.

Conclusions: Understanding the differences in educational background, experience, organizational culture, and performance of A-EBPs between program managers and LHD directors is a necessary step to improving competencies in evidence-based public health.

This study aims at understanding the differences in educational background, experience, organizational culture, and performance of A-EBPs between program managers and LHD directors to improve competencies in evidence-based public health.

Department of Public Health, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee (Dr Erwin); Prevention Research Center in St. Louis, Brown School, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri (Drs Harris and Brownson); Division of Public Health Sciences and Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center, Washington University School of Medicine, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri (Ms Smith, Ms Duggan, and Dr Brownson); and National Association of County & City Health Officials, Washington, District of Columbia (Ms Leep).

Correspondence: Paul Campbell Erwin, MD, DrPH, Department of Public Health, University of Tennessee, 1914 Andy Holt Ave, Knoxville, TN 37996 (perwin@utk.edu).

This study was supported in part by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's grant no. 69964 (Public Health Services and Systems Research) and by Cooperative Agreement Number U48/DP001903 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the Prevention Research Centers Program). The authors also thank members of their research team: Beth Dodson, Rodrigo Reis, Peg Allen, Robert Fields, and Katherine Stamatakis, and Drs Glen Mays and Douglas Scutchfield of the National Coordinating Center for Public Health Services and Systems Research, University of Kentucky College of Public Health.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

© 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.