We define academic public health practice as partnerships between members of the department and other community stakeholders that strengthen interactive governance systems, foster the development of health-promoting environments and organizations, enhance community stakeholder capacity to perform essential public health functions, and enable the department to achieve its research and education missions all with the goal of improving the population’s health.
1. Strengthening Interactive Governance Systems: Governance networks are institutionalized interactions of interdependent but autonomous actors collaborating to create public value (Sørensen and Torfing, 2017). A well-functioning governance network is a foundational public resource needed to implement policy and programmatic approaches to improve public health. Academic public health practice strengthens systems of interactive governance through the sustained application of metagovernance within defined governance networks.
Metagovernance tools include:
- Political, discursive, and financial framing: defining the basic task of the network and encouraging specific strategies through financial and other privileges
- Institutional design: creation of formal or informal arenas for engagement and rules for interaction
- Network facilitation: process management to mediate conflict and support mutual learning processes
- Network participation: aligning goals of actors and defining decision-making criteria
2. Foster Health-Promoting Environments and Organizations: Public health practice includes the examination of and alterations to physical, social, and organizational contexts that help drive or sustain behaviors and determine health outcomes. Members of the department are uniquely qualified to design, implement, and evaluate the impact of interventions to improve organizational practices and processes that facilitate or hinder positive health outcomes.
3. Enhancing Community Capacity: The department collaborates with the community through communication, consultation, provision of technical assistance and other means of sharing the school or program’s professional knowledge and skills to strengthen community stakeholder capacity. Capacity is the ability of the organizations and individuals to adopt and implement changes in policy and programs.
4. Supporting Research Excellence: Partnership with community stakeholders leads to the development of trust and respect needed to support a dynamic exchange of knowledge and skills.
This exchange is essential to:
- Generating new research questions
- Securing extramural research funds
- Conducting research in applied settings
- Translation of research findings into practice
- Dissemination of evidence-based practice and scholarship on practice
5. Enriching Education and Workforce Development: Academic public health practice is essential to achieving the learning and career development objectives of our masters and PhD programs. Our educational mission also includes non-degree training of practitioners and broader public education efforts.
Practice relationships are important factors supporting:
- Incorporation of insights from practice into the curriculum
- Inclusion of practice experiences in curriculum
- Placement in formal practicum experiences, internships, and other practice opportunities outside of the classroom