Following a stellar public health track at the Annual Research Meeting, nearly 100 participants stayed in Seattle for the post-conference Public Health Systems Research (PHSR) Interest Group meeting. This year’s meeting marked the 10th annual event. The PHSR Interest Group meeting explores current issues in public health research through abstract presentations, panel discussions, practitioner and stakeholder input, and updates on funding opportunities for the field. The 2011 meeting featured:

  • Three call for abstracts panels, including 10 presentations demonstrating increasing innovation and rigor in PHSR. Topics included translation, quality improvement, and social network analysis;
  • “Reactors” to the panels—local public health officials responded as research users, pushing the researchers to consider the practical application of this work;
  • An update from CDC;
  • An invited panel on disparities; and
  • An evening poster session.
A special 10th anniversary panel closed Tuesday’s agenda, where speakers and participants addressed rigor in and relevance of PHSR. Mike Stoto, the new Interest Group chair, pointedly asked the group to consider: (1) Can we trust the results (rigor)? (2) Are we asking the right questions (relevance)? Debra Perez, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s staunch advocate for the field of PHSR, called for greater emphasis on dissemination and translation. “We will be judged by how we influence health outcomes, not by the number of peer-reviewed journal articles,” she stated. Glen Mays, speaking from the researcher perspective, suggested that PHSR has more questions to ask than time to answer. He urged prioritization of the research agenda, focusing on the work that has “the greatest pay-off.” Weighing in with the practitioner perspective, Susan Allan reminded the group that even with 10 years of work, the Interest Group members and the field need to continue growing. She proposed that in this next decade, the field should focus on increasing the desire and the ability of practitioners to use data and research findings to change the way public health is practiced.  Participants engaged with the panelists, voicing a resounding call to improve upon the  application of knowledge. Suggestions for doing so include: continuing to support the practice-based research networks; offering incentives to providers to seek out evidence; and balancing rigor and relevance. The presentations and discussions over the two-day meeting celebrated the best in PHSR in 2011 and provided clear steps for the next decade.