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Ensuring Accountability in Public Health Prevention Research: Evaluating the Prevention Research Centers Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Wright, Demia Sundra MPH; Grunbaum, Jo Anne EdD; Dawkins, Nicola PhD, MPH; Dino, Geri PhD; Chervin, Doryn DrPH; Barnes, Katie BRE; Olarita-Dhungana, Josephina MA, MS (LMFT); Simoes, Eduardo MD, MSc, MPH

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: March/April 2011 - Volume 17 - Issue 2 - p E1–E9
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e3181d8bbc8
Original Article

This article discusses the contributions of Prevention Research Centers program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to public health policies, programs, and practices aimed at improving health and eliminating health disparities.The Prevention Research Centers (PRC) Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funds centers in schools of public health and medicine to conduct health-promotion and disease-prevention research and other activities, using a community-based participatory research approach. A national program evaluation assessed PRC Program contributions to public health practices and policies, community-based participatory research implementation, and PRCs’ infrastructures and organizational factors. An overview of the evaluation development and implementation activities is provided, along with highlighted results from program indicators, contextual studies, and other complementary activities. Evaluation design used both quantitative and qualitative methods. Lessons learned from the evaluation process include having a clear purpose to provide clarity to the evaluation and ensuring that the study design and data collection methods capture important outcomes. The PRC evaluation demonstrated PRC Program accomplishments and provided insight to the process of participatory research at the PRCs. Challenges with data collection instigated changes to how evaluation data will be collected in the future. The evaluation strategies and lessons learned can guide other national public health research programs in conducting their own evaluations and navigating challenges inherent when assessing such complex programs.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Ms Wright, Dr Grunbaum, and Mr Simoes), ICF Macro (Drs Dawkins and Chervin), Atlanta, Georgia; Department of Community Medicine, West Virginia University and West Virginia Prevention Research Center (Dr Dino), Morgantown; Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (Ms Barnes); and Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles (Ms Dhungana), and Carson Family Resource Center, Carson (Ms Dhungana) California.

Correspondence: Jo Anne Grunbaum, EdD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Highway NE, MS K-45, Atlanta, GA 30341 (

This project was supported by the Prevention Research Centers Program, Division of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The findings and conclusions in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of the US Departments of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We thank the members of the Collaborative Evaluation Design Team for their dedication to and thoughtfulness on this project. We also thank the team members at both the Prevention Research Centers (PRC) Program office and ICF Macro; they worked diligently to ensure the success of the PRC Program national evaluation. We thank the academic, community, and public health partners at the PRCs who participated in the evaluation and provided feedback on the project over time, for their support of evaluation activities, objectivity and openness in their comments, and commitment to the PRC Program.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.