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Case Western School of Medicine receives RWJF grant to establish a public health research network

CLEVELAND November 19, 2009 Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Medicine (SOM) has received a Robert Wood Johnson grant to fund a Public Health Practice Based Research Network called The Ohio Research Association for Public Health Improvement (RAPHI). The grant, $90,000 over two years, was one of 7 practice-based research networks awarded this year, making the School of Medicine one of only 12 networks in the country.

"With increasing threats to public health and safety from emerging infections such as H1N1, climate change, and infections spread through the food chain, the need for public health is greater and more visible than ever," said Scott Frank, MD, MS, Co-Principal Investigator, Director of the CWRU SOM Master of Public Health (MPH) Program, and Health Commissioner for Shaker Heights, Ohio. "Finding solutions to health problems such as chronic disease, obesity, mental health, and substance abuse will depend on an effective public health system."

Public Health Practice-Based Research Networks (PHBRN) is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) that supports the development of research networks for studying the reach, effectiveness, efficiency and equity of public health practice. A practice-based research network brings multiple public health agencies together to design and implement studies in real-world practice settings. Networks collaborate on individual and multi-site research through the Public Health PBRN National Coordinating Center located at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Findings will advance RWJF's efforts to enhance the evidence base for public health policy and practice.

The purpose of the RAPHI is to allow local health departments and their communities from across Ohio to work collaboratively to conduct cutting-edge research to address the ever changing health challenges facing the nation. RAPHI is intended to investigate what public health does; how public health does what it does; how well public health does what it does; what public health is not doing that it should be doing; and how public health can do what it does better.

The CWRU Master of Public Health program will function as the fiscal agent and lead agency for RAPHI. It will focus initially on how public health can use information technology to improve services to the public by conducting cutting-edge research in public health practice settings with local health departments and their communities, serving as the laboratory and with public health practitioners, developing the research questions of interest.

Objectives include: 1. Create an inclusive Ohio-wide PHPBRN. 2. Improve the efficiency and efficacy of public health practice through research involving the quality of provision of essential public health services. 3. Share research tasks among many local health departments in order to decrease the burden of effort and to achieve valid and generalizable outcomes. 4. Establish ongoing commitment to organizational structure; support of network members; collaboration between public health practice and academic public health; and expansion of the research network activities. 5. Investigate the scope of data sources common among local health departments. 6. Link local health department practitioners with investigators experienced in PHPBRNs. 7. Facilitate involvement of health professions students in population health research. 8. Assure research is driven by RAPHI members and bears pragmatic significance to public health practice. 9. Identify and act on funding opportunities.

All Ohio local health departments are invited to participate. Initial focus will be on the local health departments that are affiliated with the five academic public health programs located across Ohio (Case Western Reserve University MPH program; Ohio State University College of Public Health; Northwest Ohio Consortium MPH program {University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University}; Wright State University MPH program; and University of Cincinnati MPH program) and the Ohio Department of Health.

Affiliated local health departments represent a balance of large and small health departments in both highly populated and rural areas of Ohio including Ohio's largest cities. While research decisions will be driven by RAPHI members, initial research focus will be placed on the use of public health informatics for 1) continuous quality improvement and 2) community health assessment and surveillance; and 3) the use of public health financial performance indicators in local health departments.

Matt Stefanak, MPH; Health Commissioner, Mahoning County District Board of Health is the other Co-Principal Investigator of RAPHI.


Contact: Christina DeAngelis
Case Western Reserve University

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