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This study describes findings from an assessment conducted to identify perceived knowledge gaps, information needs, and research priorities among state, territorial, and local public health preparedness directors and coordinators related to public health emergency preparedness and response (PHPR). The goal of the study was to gather information that would be useful for ensuring that future funding for research and evaluation targets areas most critical for advancing public health practice.
We implemented a mixed-methods approach to identify and prioritize PHPR research questions. A web survey was sent to all state, city, and territorial health agencies funded through the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) Cooperative Agreement program and a sample of local health departments (LHDs). Three focus groups of state and local practitioners and subject matter experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were subsequently conducted, followed by 3 meetings of an expert panel of PHPR practitioners and CDC experts to prioritize and refine the research questions.
We identified a final list of 44 research questions that were deemed by study participants as priority topics where future research can inform PHPR programs and practice. We identified differences in perceived research priorities between PHEP awardees and LHD survey respondents; the number of research questions rated as important was greater among LHDs than among PHEP awardees (75%, n=33, compared to 24%, n=15).
The research questions identified provide insight into public health practitioners’ perceived knowledge gaps and the types of information that would be most useful for informing and advancing PHPR practice. The study also points to a higher level of information need among LHDs than among PHEP awardees. These findings are important for CDC and the PHPR research community to ensure that future research studies are responsive to practitioners’ needs and provide the information required to enhance their capacity to meet the needs of the communities and jurisdictions they serve. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2017;11:552–561)
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