Capacity building for evidence-based decision making in local health departments: Scaling up an effective training approach

Academic Article


  • Background: There are few studies describing how to scale up effective capacity-building approaches for public health practitioners. This study tested local-level evidence-based decision making (EBDM) capacity-building efforts in four U.S. states (Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Washington) with a quasi-experimental design.Methods: Partners within the four states delivered a previously established Evidence-Based Public Health (EBPH) training curriculum to local health department (LHD) staff. They worked with the research team to modify the curriculum with local data and examples while remaining attentive to course fidelity. Pre- and post-assessments of course participants (n = 82) and an external control group (n = 214) measured importance, availability (i.e., how available a skill is when needed, either within the skillset of the respondent or among others in the agency), and gaps in ten EBDM competencies. Simple and multiple linear regression models assessed the differences between pre- and post-assessment scores. Course participants also assessed the impact of the course on their work.Results: Course participants reported greater increases in the availability, and decreases in the gaps, in EBDM competencies at post-test, relative to the control group. In adjusted models, significant differences (p < 0.05) were found in 'action planning,' 'evaluation design,' 'communicating research to policymakers,' 'quantifying issues (using descriptive epidemiology),' and 'economic evaluation.' Nearly 45% of participants indicated that EBDM increased within their agency since the training. Course benefits included becoming better leaders and making scientifically informed decisions.Conclusions: This study demonstrates the potential for improving EBDM capacity among LHD practitioners using a train-the-trainer approach involving diverse partners. This approach allowed for local tailoring of strategies and extended the reach of the EBPH course.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 15935861
  • Author List

  • Jacobs JA; Duggan K; Erwin P; Smith C; Borawski E; Compton J; D'Ambrosio L; Frank SH; Frazier-Kouassi S; Hannon PA
  • Volume

  • 9
  • Issue

  • 1