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VOLUME 44 | NUMBER 5.2 | OCTOBER 2009


Toward Standardized, Comparable Public Health Systems Data: A Taxonomic Description of Essential Public Health Work



Objective. To identify taxonomy of task, knowledge, and resources for documenting the work performed in local health departments (LHDs).

Data Sources. Secondary data were collected from documents describing public health (PH) practice produced by organizations representing the PH community.

Study Design. A multistep consensus-based method was used that included literature review, data extraction, expert opinion, focus group review, and pilot testing.

Data Extraction Methods. 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 two LHDs.

Principal Findings. The finalized taxonomy was applied to compare a national sample of 11 LHDs. Data were obtained from 1,064 of 1,267 (84 percent) of employees. Frequencies of tasks, knowledge, and resources constitute a profile of PH work. About 70 percent of the correlations between LHD pairs on tasks and knowledge were high (>0.7), suggesting between-department commonalities. On resources only 16 percent of correlations between LHD pairs were high, suggesting a source of performance variability.

Conclusions. A taxonomy of PH work serves as a tool for comparative research and a framework for further development.

 

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