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Public Health Services and Systems Research


State and local health departments across the country are faced with budget cuts, job losses, and the demands of preparing communities for seasonal diseases and potential outbreaks. Although the field of Public Health Services and Systems Research (PHSSR) answers some of the important and challenging questions about how public health can be structured, managed, staffed, funded, and organized, there is still more that can be done. To build upon the research that has already been conducted, the Public Health Foundation was awarded a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to utilize TRAIN, the nation’s premier learning management network designed specifically for professionals who protect and improve the public’s health, to perform tasks aimed at advancing the field of PHSSR. This initiative:

  • Incentivized researchers to conduct PHSSR;
  • Improved the TRAIN database to ensure data quality and integrity;
  • Assisted in refining the public health workforce agendas; and
  • Conducted research to understand retention and recruitment needs of the public health workforce. 

With over one million registered learners, and 29,000 courses coming from nearly 4,000 providers of training, TRAIN’s database can be used to learn about the current public health workforce skills/competence and the way the workforce is trained. In addition, the developer of TRAIN, the Public Health Foundation, in its work with the TRAIN community and the Council on Linkages Between Academia and Public Health Practice (Council on Linkages), can help new investigators to the field of PHSSR understand priority workforce research needs and how the TRAIN database can be used for PHSSR.


PHSSR Resources


One of the basic tools needed to effectively conduct database research is a data dictionary. A data dictionary is a repository of information about data fields, contents/elements, relationships to other data, usage, and format that is used to understand the data and the databases that contain it. To ensure is that both users and owners of data have a common understanding of the meaning and descriptive characteristics (e.g., representation) of that data, the Data Dictionary was developed.

In order to aid the introduction of TRAIN to researchers conducting PHHSR, the Public Health Foundation has developed a 15 minute webinar outlining how TRAIN can be utilized by researchers to study the public health workforce and expand the PHSSR agenda. The webinar, “Using TRAIN for Research: Your Guide for Using the TRAIN Datasets for Research,” explains what TRAIN is, datasets available to researchers, and the process of obtaining access to the tailored datasets.


An additional tool that is anticipated to benefit PHSSR researchers is the ability to have access to tailored datasets. Datasets consist of all of the data that can be used for addressing specific research questions. To assist in the research process, three tailored TRAIN datasets that can be utilized by researchers:

Recognizing that the needs of PHSSR extend beyond these three datasets, PHF invites researchers to request customized data from TRAIN to meet specific needs. Requested data can include any fields in TRAIN related to workforce questions, but cannot include any potentially identifying information.


Interested in Utilizing the TRAIN Datasets for Research?


If you are interested in accessing these datasets, please watch the Using TRAIN for Research: Your Guide to Using the TRAIN Datasets for Research webinar, then download and print a copy of the TRAIN Data Use Agreement. Read, sign, and fax or email the completed TRAIN Data Use Agreement to:


Attn: TRAIN                                Subject: TRAIN DUA
202.218.4409            OR


If you are interested in conducting research on additional or customized datasets please contact the TRAIN Team.


Please Note: You must obtain approval before you are able to access to the TRAIN datasets.


Learn More About Partners: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Kentucky School College of Public Health. ​​​

Public Health Services and Systems Research