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AJPH Highlights the Importance of Academic-Practice Partnerships for Impacting Evidence-Based Public Health

Date: 4/29/2019 9:58 AM

Related Categories: Council on Linkages, Workforce Development

Topic: Council on Linkages, Workforce Development

Tag: Academic Health Department, Academic Health Department Learning Community, Council on Linkages, Email Newsletter Content, Infrastructure, Partnerships, PHF E-News, Research, Workforce Development

Author: Kathleen Amos

Kathleen Amos, MLIS, Assistant Director, Academic/Practice Linkages, Public Health Foundation

Researchers concluded that “formal academic–practice partnerships can be important means for advancing evidence-based decision-making and for implementing evidence-based programs and policies”1 in a recent study by Paul Campbell Erwin, MD, DrPH, and colleagues released in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH; subscription required for access).

Organizations across the country participate in academic health department (AHD) partnerships – formal partnerships between health departments and academic institutions – and the impact of these partnerships is a regular topic of discussion among members of the AHD Learning Community. Case studies and stories of the benefits of these partnerships abound, but research is slim and many questions remain unanswered.

With their article, Evidence-Based Public Health Provided Through Local Health Departments: Importance of Academic–Practice Partnerships, Erwin and colleagues build evidence of the impact for health departments of academic partnerships. As C. William Keck, MD, MPH, Chair of the Council on Linkages Between Academia and Public Health Practice (Council on Linkages), notes in his accompanying editorial, Academic Health Department Partnerships: Bridging the Gap Between Town and Gown, this study “is the first to sample local health departments with the intent of determining whether evidence-based practices are more prevalent in health departments with academic partners.”2

This groundbreaking research shows that local health departments with formal AHD partnerships perceived higher organizational supports for evidence-based decision-making and interventions, and were more likely to provide chronic disease evidence-based interventions.1

You can find the AHD research on page 739 and the editorial on page 665 of the May issue of AJPH.

Dr. Keck writes, AHDs “have been receiving increasing interest since the 1988 publication of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, ‘The Future of Public Health’”2

and “even with the need for more research, a growing number of practitioners and academics are finding value in AHD partnerships.”2 With this increasing interest and benefit, Dr. Keck proposes that the time may have come “for the profession to find the resources necessary to truly support a center…to better support and coordinate what is developing as a national movement,”2 noting that the AHD Learning Community is serving this role, but there is a need for more stable funding.

The AHD Learning Community, an initiative of the Council on Linkages that is staffed by the Public Health Foundation, provides a range of resources to support AHD partnerships, including a webinar series highlighting success stories, an Ask the AHD Expert guidance column, a listserv for peer-to-peer communication, a collection of sample AHD partnership agreements, and other resources and tools. The Learning Community endeavors to provide some definition of the concept, document the reach of AHD partnerships across the country, and support practitioners and academics in making these partnerships a reality to expand the capacity of their organizations. Since its start in 2011, the Learning Community has grown from a small group of less than 100 to 1,100 members representing every state in the country, and new members are always welcome. I’d love to hear from you at if you’d like to get involved!

Activities of the AHD Learning Community have recently become more limited due to cuts in funding, but the need for this assistance and desire to provide this support remain strong. Let this building evidence-base of the impact of AHD partnerships on public health practice be a call to action to support this developing “national movement.” Reach out to me at to discuss how you can have an impact.

American Journal of Public Health References

  1. Erwin, PC, et al. Evidence-Based Public Health Provided Through Local Health Departments: Importance of Academic–Practice Partnerships. American Journal of Public Health, vol. 109, no. 5 (May 2019): 739-747. Available from:
  2. Keck, CW. Academic Health Department Partnerships: Bridging the Gap Between Town and Gown. American Journal of Public Health, vol. 109, no. 5 (May 2019): 665-666. Available from:


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