Academic-Practice Partnerships

Oregon State University Center for Health Innovation

What is an Academic Health Department (AHD)?

An Academic Health Department (AHD) is a partnership between a health department and an academic institution that trains future health professionals.

AHDs can serve as sites for joint education, research, and practice.  These powerful partnerships allow practitioners and academic communities to:

  • Develop the current and future workforce
  • Build the evidence base for public health
  • Better deliver the essential public health services

Benefits of AHDs

AHDs foster a bi-directional flow of data, analysis, and learning. AHDs informs academics on potential research focuses. It also provides research institutions access to data and communities that may otherwise be difficult to engage.

Academic partners can provide synthesis and translation of current research, which may be difficult and time-consuming for professions to access and process. Additionally, academic partners can provide technical support, such as assessment, evaluation, and data analysis, which may be beyond a department’s internal capacity.

Agencies with formal AHDs were more likely to use EBPs in decision-making and implementation. While there is a great deal of evidence and research about best practices, it is often not utilized in practice settings. AHDs provide the support and conditions necessary to increase the use of EBPs.

AHDs provide a direct pipeline for students to gain valuable work experience in practice settings. This increases meaningful learning opportunities for students, and also provides local health departments with a qualified hiring pool.

AHDs foster opportunities for joint research projects. Joint research can move across disciplines and engage a range of expertise. Examples could include the impacts of wildfires on air quality and health.

Highlight: Public Health Modernization in Clackamas County

Through a AHD partnership, the Center is evaluating efforts in Clackamas County towards Public Health Modernization, specifically with regards to infectious disease control and prevention. Center staff has analyzed data and conducted in-depth interviews with staff and community partners. A synthesized report outlining the impacts of Clackamas County’s “Health Equity Zones" report will support modernization planning and evaluation.