When IAPHS was founded in 2015, it set out three goals: (1) Advance population health science; (2) Improve population health by promoting the communication and application of science, and (3) Support population health scientists in their careers. While the organization’s conferences, blog, webinars and mentoring program have addressed the first and third of these well, fewer of its activities have promoted the communication and application of science. Last October, the IAPHS Board initiated a strategic planning activity to explore how we could better address this objective.
Between December and March, I conducted 31 key informant interviews with four groups of people. I spoke with experts in evidence-based policy and population health practice who were familiar with IAPHS, with IAPHS members in academic and non-academic settings, and with representatives of organizations engaged in some aspect of communication or application. Three Board members—Anna Zajacova, Steve Woolf, and Julie Maslowsky—provided guidance in selecting informants and wise counsel on the potential new directions being identified. Together, we learned that:
- Academic members of IAPHS express a strong appetite for ensuring that their research reaches outside the walls of academia to inform population health action and policy. However, the disincentives in academia for doing this often create barriers.
- While most of our members have academic positions, an important and enthusiastic minority hold positions outside of academia and engage in public health practice or other work that actively applies population health science. IAPHS needs to reach out more effectively to this group.
- There are many organizations who effectively work to bridge research and policy/practice. Partnerships with such organizations can supplement efforts by IAPHS to serve the needs of its members.
The IAPHS Board has agreed that, as a start, we should move forward to plan several activities that will promote the communication and application of science:
- A webinar series covering what a researcher needs to know to create consequential science and make it accessible to actors working to improve health and health equity. A new working group is designing this series and hopes to launch it by 2022. Working group members include Summer Hawkins, Vinu Ilakkuvan, Carlos Tavares, and myself. We welcome your input!
- A partnership with the Scholar Strategy Network, an organization that facilitates relationships between scientists and the users of their science.
- Expanded outreach to population health professionals outside of university settings to create a more robust home for applied science within IAPHS.
- A webinar on models for institutional change to improve rewards for applied and public scholarship within university settings. Planning for this initiative is underway with Julie Maslowsky in the lead.
- A preconference workshop on policy engagement (October 2021 IAPHS Conference). Planning for this is proceeding under Sue Bevan’s leadership.
- Expanding the scope of the Community Research Partnership Award to recognize a broader range of activities related to the communication and application of science.
- Exploring mechanisms for informal exchange among population health professionals with shared research and/or application interests in specific health issues.
We’d love your ideas and suggestions as our planning process continues! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts or to volunteer to help out.