The use of an evidence-based public health framework to guide policy and program decisions may be on the rise in the United States, but gaps remain in key competencies for public-health workers, according to new research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.
Researchers conducted four national online surveys from 2008-2013 that together questioned 2,194 state and local public health department employees. They were asked to rate the importance of the specific knowledge, understanding, and skills – “competencies” – needed for evidence-based decision making and how available those competencies were to them. These types of competencies are essential for accreditation of state and local public health agencies.
The surveys showed progress in perceived importance and availability of all competencies. But gaps remained. The largest competency gaps found in all four surveys were the same: Economic evaluation, communication of research to policymakers, evaluation designs, and the adaptation of interventions.
“More work with public health departments to both situate trainings to boost competency in these areas and continued improvements for organizational practices are possible next steps,” wrote co-authors Ms. Rebekah R. Jacob of the Prevention Research Center, Brown School, and Dr. Ross C. Brownson, Bernard Becker Professor of Public Health at the Brown School and Co-Director of the Center.
The study was published November 14 in BMC Health Services Research.
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