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Public health departments and academic institutions engage in a range of cooperative activities that can greatly benefit a public health department and can often be mutually beneficial. Yet, little is known regarding practitioners' views of successful academic collaborations.
The purpose of this study was to explore predictors and correlates of beneficial academic collaboration from the perspective of those on the front lines—the practitioners constituting the public health workforce.
Analysis of the Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey (PH WINS), a cross-sectional survey of state health department practitioners, conducted in 2014.
PH WINS is a nationally representative survey of state health department practitioners. Data were available for a total of 8718 respondents in 37 states.
Main Outcome Measures:
Two main outcome measures were used—(a) whether a respondent reported collaborating with an academic entity (including faculty/staff/students) in the past year, and (b) when collaboration did occur, the success of the collaboration insofar as the respondent perceived the engagement as very helpful.
Health department practitioners (27.2%) reported participating in an academic-practice collaboration. Factors associated with partnering included respondents' supervisory status, positional duties, and public health background. Of these respondents, 46.6% reported a successful collaboration. Factors associated with a successful collaboration included respondents' self-reported job skills and public health background.
While characteristics related to a public health practitioner's position are most significant in predicting whether a collaboration will occur, characteristics of the individual him- or herself are more relevant in predicting whether a collaboration will be successful. Public health managers interested in fostering an environment that promotes a successful academic-practice collaboration may benefit from ensuring that the public health practitioners involved in such collaborations are themselves trained in public health.