Local public health resource allocation: limited choices and strategic decisions

Journal Name: 
Am J Prev.Med
BACKGROUND: Local health department leaders are expected to improve the health of their populations as they "use and contribute to" the evidence base for practice, but effectively providing and utilizing data and evidence for local public health decision making has proven difficult. PURPOSE: This study was conducted in 2011 and initiated by Washington State's public health practice-based research network to identify factors influencing local resource allocation and programmatic decisions among public health leaders facing severe funding losses. METHODS: Quantitative data informed sampling for the collection of interview data. Qualitative methods were used to capture diverse insights of Washington State's local public health leaders in making decisions regarding resource allocation. RESULTS: Local decision-making authority was perceived as greatly restricted by what public health activities were legally mandated and the categoric nature of funding sources, even as some leaders exercised deliberate strategic approaches. One's workforce and board of health were also influential in making decisions regarding resource allocations. Challenges were expressed regarding making use of data and research evidence for decision making. Data were analyzed in 2011-2012. CONCLUSIONS: Programmatic mandates, funding restrictions, local stakeholders, and workforce capacity appear to trump factors such as research evidence and perceived community need in public health resource allocation. Study findings highlight tensions between the literature descriptions of what "should" influence decision making in local public health and the realities of practice. Advancements in practice-based research and evidence-based decision making, however, provide opportunities for strengthening the development of evidence and research translation for local decision making to maximize resources and promote effective service provision
community, data, decision, Decision Making, Development, electronic, factors, Health, Methods, nursing, population, practice-based research, Public Health, Research, sampling, Universities, Washington