Toward standardized, comparable public health systems data: a taxonomic description of essential public health work

Merrill, Jacqueline A.; Keeling, Jonathan; Gebbie, Kristine

The objective of this study is to identify taxonomy of task, knowledge and resources for documenting the work performed in local health departments (LHDs). Secondary data were collected from documents describing public health practice produced by organizations representing the public health community. A multi-step consensus-based method was used that included literature review, data extraction, expert opinion, focus group review and pilot testing. Terms and concepts were manually extracted from documents, consolidated, and evaluated for scope and sufficiency by researchers. An expert panel determined suitability of terms and a hierarchy for classifying them. This work was validated by practitioners and results pilot tested in 2 LHDs. The finalized taxonomy was applied to compare a national sample of 11 LHDs. Data were obtained from 1064 of 1267 (84%) of employees. Frequencies of tasks, knowledge, and resources constitute a profile of public health work. About 70% of ! the correlations between LHD pairs on tasks and knowledge were high (> 0.7) suggesting between department commonalities. On resources only 16% of correlations between LHD pairs were high, suggesting a source of performance variability. A taxonomy of public health work serves as a tool for comparative research and a framework for further development.


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Health Services Research

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Academic Units
Biomedical Informatics
Published Here
April 4, 2013