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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

WashU: Leadership in Public Health Departments Can Boost Evidence-Based Practice

Leadership support is a key factor in promoting evidence-based decision making in state public health departments, according to new research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Researchers interviewed 51 leaders and program managers in 12 state health department chronic disease prevention units to identify factors that contribute to the use of evidence-based practice. In addition to leadership support, positive factors included:

[Photo: Dr. Peg Allen]

Challenges for evidence-based practice included funding uncertainties or budget cuts, lack of time, lack of political support and staff turnover.

“Leadership support is a key facilitator of evidence based public health capacity building and practice,” wrote the study’s lead author, Dr. Peg Allen, research assistant professor in the Prevention Research Center at the Brown School. “Leaders in public health agencies with authority and skills can institute management practice to help staff learn and apply evidence-based practices.”

Leadership support included being role models, regularly asking for evidence, giving staff time to determine how best to apply evidence in priority setting and planning, and creating a supportive environment for ongoing learning and data-driven decision making.

The paper was published online March 2 in the Journal of Community Health.
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