Oregon State University Center for Health Innovation
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:
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. Although 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.
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.