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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU: High, Low-Capacity Health Departments Compared

Open internal communication, staff training and funding flexibility are among the characteristics of high-capacity local health departments, according to research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Research Assistant Professor Rachel Tabak
[Photo: Dr. Rachel G. Tabak]

Researchers interviewed 35 practitioners from six geographically diverse health departments.  Three of the departments had been found to have a high capacity for sustaining their programs, and three had a low capacity, as measured by national performance standards.

Most of the factors that distinguished the two were within internal control, interviews revealed. Open, top-down communication from leaders to others in the organization was important.  High-capacity departments also benefited from funding flexibility, regardless of funding levels.

“Investments in leadership support for improving organizational capacity, improvements in communication, integrating program evaluation and greater funding flexibility may enhance sustainability of evidence-based public health,” wrote the lead author, Dr. Rachel G. Tabak, research assistant professor at the Brown School.

The paper was published in the March/April issue of the Journal of Public Health Management Practice.

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