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Original Scholarship Population Health Public Health
Glen P. Mays
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Context: While the novel coronavirus pandemic has underscored the important role of public health systems in protecting community health, it has also exposed weaknesses in the public health infrastructure that stem from chronic underfunding and fragmentation in public health delivery systems. Information about the relative value in the implementation of recommended population health capabilities can help communities prioritize their use of limited time and resources and identify the most effective pathways for building a stronger public health system.
Methods: We used a longitudinal cohort design with data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Public Health Systems to examine longitudinal and geographic trends in the delivery of population health capabilities and their impact on system strength across communities in the United States. We used linear probability models to ascertain whether the delivery of certain capabilities added value to public health system strength.
Findings: Those communities with the strongest classification of public health system structure in both urban and rural areas implemented the largest set of population health capabilities. Results from the linear probability model indicate that a set of population health capabilities are associated with increased public health system strength. Key activities include allocating resources based on a community health plan, surveying the community for behavioral risk factors, analyzing the data on preventive services use, and engaging community stakeholders in health improvement planning (p < 0.01).
Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that public health systems can be strengthened through the targeted implementation of high-value population health capabilities. Prioritizing the delivery of value-added population health capabilities may help communities increase their public health system’s capacity and improve health outcomes.
Keywords: public health, public health administration, longitudinal studies.
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